CLEMSON - For the first time in a long time, Clemson appears to control its own postseason destiny.
The Tigers have three regular season games remaining, two of which will be played at Littlejohn Coliseum. At 13-13 (3-10 ACC), Clemson must win two of the final three to finish at 15-14 heading into the conference tournament. Accomplish that and the worst a first-round ACC Tournament loss leaves them is .500 on the season.
That level - .500 or above - is a significant plateau. Only twice in the history of the National Invitational Tournament has an ACC team with a record of .500 or better been left out of the postseason get-together.
Of course, both times the team denied was Clemson - 15-13 in 2003, Larry Shyatt's last year, and 14-14 in 1992 - a team which lost its final five games.
So understanding that nothing surrounding this Tiger team comes easy, head coach Oliver Purnell hopes his team - or Clemson fans - don't look at Sunday's home game with Florida State as an automatic victory. As far as Purnell is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.
"I hope people don't come in here expecting Florida State to be a bad basketball team," he said Friday. "They would be terribly mistaken. This will be maybe the most athletic team we face all season...They've just been snakebit even more than we have."
The Seminoles (11-16, 3-10) are an enigma.
Deep, talented and experienced, FSU seemingly was on track for a breakout ACC season this year. Instead, they have been decimated by close losses; five of their conference defeats have been by 5 points or less.
One of those was a 56-54 loss to Clemson in Tallahassee back on Jan. 12, a game the Tigers won despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor. It was Clemson's first win at the Tucker Center in seven years, and even that wasn't assured until Von Wafer missed a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds.
"We had to play good defense to win a game in which we shot 38 percent," Purnell said. "We rebounded well in that game, as well (plus 10). We'll need to do it again this weekend if we want to win."
Another obstacle facing the Tigers this weekend is illness. The flu has made an appearance in Clemson's camp, and among the hardest hit so far has been freshman James Mays.
Mays' status for Sunday is expected to be a game-time decision.
- Sunday’s game between Clemson and Florida State will be the 500th for FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell coached his 500th game last Saturday at North Carolina. Both Hamilton and Purnell are in their 17th seasons as Division I head coaches;
- Clemson will be attempting to gain just its second regular season sweep over the Seminoles since Florida State joined the ACC in 1991-92. The only other year Clemson has swept Florida State was the 1997-98 season;
- Sharrod Ford is coming off his best game as a Tiger. The senior from Suitland, M. had
24 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocked shots in the win at Maryland. The nine blocked shots were the most ever by a Clemson player in a road game. He came just one block short of recording the first triple double by a Clemson player in 12 years.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.