CLEMSON - The pomp and circumstance of Senior Night tonight at Littlejohn Coliseum likely will last until the first dead ball. After that, it's go time.
Clemson (15-10, 5-9 ACC) entertains N.C. State (15-10, 8-60 at 7:00 tonight in the Tigers' final home game. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
Head coach Larry Shyatt is expected to honor the five remaining members of his first recruiting class - Ed Scott, Tomas Nagys, Ray Henderson, plus walk-ons Jermel Douglas and Walker Holt - by opening tonight's game with them in the starting lineup.
And though that lineup likely will last only until the first stoppage in play, Shyatt said Tuesday he feels obligated to honor his five seniors in that way.
"They knew it would be an uphill climb, they've had some dog days, but they made a commitment to get this program back to postseason play," he said. "They've had a good season, and it's certainly not over.
"Plus they'll do something that no basketball class has ever done in 50 years of basketball at Clemson - all five will graduate before August."
The first time Clemson and N.C. State met back back on Feb. 2, the Wolfpack rolled to a 22-point victory in Raleigh.
But Shyatt thinks his team is better this time around, and the record would back up that assessment. Until consecutive losses on the road at league powerhouses Maryland and Wake Forest last week, the Tigers had won three consecutive conference games and four out of five.
"This team still wants an NCAA tournament bid," Shyatt said. "And while it's a tall order at this point, it's not impossible. But at a minimum, they've got this program back to where (opponents) respect us."
To stop the Wolfpack, Clemson will have to do a better job defending against State's big men, especially when they step outside and fire from behind the 3-point arc.
After watching N.C. State beat both Duke and North Carolina back-to-back games at home - both of whom played tough, man-to-man pressure defense against the Wolfpack - Shyatt decided to play the Feb. game in a zone.
The result? State lit it up from the 3-point line and rolled to the easy victory.
"Marcus Melvin is an inside-outside threat, Julius Hodge was the national player of the year in high school, and Scooter Sherrill was a McDonald's All-American," Shyatt said. "They're all brilliant players, and they're dangerous.
"We'll probably mix it up (defensively) a little bit more, but they can get you inside and out."