|Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 9:13 AM- -|
Clemson's huge 13-point win over Duke this past Saturday has changed the expectation level of some observers. One ESPN analyst said Saturday's outcome was the biggest surprise in the conference this season.
So where do the Tigers go from here? Do they revert back to the team we saw get beat by 15 at home last Thursday night against FSU or do they build momentum and confidence off the Duke win?
I can see a game or two on both ends of the spectrum in the coming weeks, but for most of the remaining games I also expect Clemson to play somewhere between those two levels.
First, we must realize that the Atlantic Coast Conference is going to be crazy again this January and February. We will continue to see upsets on a weekly basis. Also, we must realize how important match ups are. Because of their size, Clemson is a terrible match up when facing the Seminoles. Because of its lack of size the Tigers match up well with Duke.
This is a big week in setting the tone for the rest of the season. This is the week before the storm hits. This week presents the Tigers with an opportunity to get a couple of wins, so I am calling this deposit week.
Clemson goes to Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Traditionally the Tigers have not played well on the road but Wednesday represents a good opportunity. Virginia Tech is one of the worst teams in the league. The Hokies beat Miami on the road earlier in the year but the Canes are not very good at this point. Tech is 8-7 overall with losses to USC-Upstate and UNC-Greensboro. They are 1-2 in the league with an expected loss to Syracuse but a tough loss at home this past weekend to Boston College. Road wins are rare in this league but Wednesday is an opportunity.
Saturday the Tigers return home to face Wake Forest who is 11-5 overall and 1-2 in the conference. The Deacons are better than Virginia Tech but this one is in Littlejohn and Wake has struggled on the road. They did beat North Carolina at home but lost to Virginia by 23 and Pittsburgh by 15.
This week's games are crucial because of what is waiting starting next week. Clemson faces one of the nation's most difficult seven game stretches this season. The stretch begins at Pittsburgh who is currently 15-1 overall and 3-0 in the league. The Tigers travel to North Carolina who is struggling, but we all know the history of Clemson basketball in games at Chapel Hill. The three game road stretch ends with a difficult match up at Florida State who is 11-4 overall and 2-1 in the league after blasting Maryland Sunday night.
Clemson has its only home game on a six game segment of the schedule when it returns to Littlejohn for a game against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are currently 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the conference, so this represents a one-game pardon.
The Tigers return for difficult road tests at Syracuse and at Notre Dame. The Orange are 16-0 overall, 3-0 in the conference and ranked second in the country. The Irish are 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the league, but have a win over Duke.
When the schedule was released it looked like a six game gauntlet, but now you have to add the next home game against Virginia to the list. The Cavs are 12-4 and 3-0 in the league with three large margins of victory in all three conference wins.
The good news is the Tigers finish with four of their last six games at home and opportunities for a strong finish. But the seven game stretch might take a lot out of this team. Therefore, we expect a lot of withdraws during that stretch, so the Tigers need to take advantage of this deposit week and get to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in the ACC.
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