Tigers know what they have to do to reach tourney


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Jordan Roper said the Tigers are taking a one-game approach (Photo by Dawson Powers, USAT)
Jordan Roper said the Tigers are taking a one-game approach (Photo by Dawson Powers, USAT)

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell knows what his basketball team has to do to get into the NCAA Tournament.

And he said his players know that, as well.

So the Tigers aren’t going to shy away from that talk. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to hang over their games or practices, either.

“I’m just very honest with our players. I think that’s how you need to be with these guys,” Brownell said Tuesday. “They get away from you, and they’re on social media, and they watch TV; they know what’s going on. So I think you need to address the situation in terms of where your team stands, don’t put your head in the sand and not talk about being on the bubble and all those kinds of things. It’s not something we live by because we know at the end of the day we just do the best we can that day, attack the day, a little bit, if you will, and then try to put ourselves in a position to be prepared for when it’s time to play and then go try to play with a free mind.

“Be loose, have fun and compete and not worry so much about results and just try to continue to work to play better basketball. That’s something we talk about a lot, just continuing to try to play better basketball. If we do that, good things will happen.”

That continues Wednesday when Clemson hosts Boston College.

The Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday when they beat Georgia Tech 66-52 and improved to 15-10 overall and 8-5 in the ACC. Boston College is 7-18 overall and winless in 12 conference games.

Clemson is 6-1 in ACC play at home with the lone loss coming to Notre Dame. The Tigers are 2-4 on the road with wins over Syracuse and Wake Forest. After Wednesday’s game, three of Clemson’s final four games are on the road: N.C. State, Georgia Tech and Boston College. The lone home game is against Virginia.

“Momentum this time of this year is critical in terms of trying to be in a positive frame of mind and feeling good about yourself as you approach each game,” Brownell said. “That’s one of the things that’s hard about the league is it’s hard to string a lot of consecutive wins together because there’s so many good teams and there’s so much depth. I think there’s more depth this year than maybe even most of the other years that I’ve been here.

“Some of the teams that are in the bottom of the league still have very good RPIs, much better non-conference records than we had. So there’s certainly talent at every roster, and you’ve gotta go win games, you’ve gotta play well.”

And the Tigers know they can’t look ahead, even as they play some of the teams at the bottom of the conference standings. Boston College, N.C. State and Georgia Tech have combined for a 6-31 ACC record.

“It’s still a one-game-at-a-time approach,” senior Jordan Roper said. “I think a lot of times you get so focused on what’s ahead in the future that you don’t focus on what’s right in front of you. So I think that’s the main thing that we have to do right now, is focus on what’s in front of us.

“You just remind them that we could be that first loss, I mean that first win for them, and it’s important to approach the game as if it were Duke or North Carolina. Every ACC game is important, especially now, so just keep everybody’s head down and just work and accomplish the task at hand.”

If Clemson can do that, it can find itself right in the NCAA Tournament conversation in a couple of weeks.

“What’s true of most teams and what you want from most teams is to be in this position with a couple of weeks left, and you have the opportunity to go the tournament, and you’re trying to play your way in,” Brownell said. “There’s a handful of teams that already know for sure they’re in, but there’s probably 50 of us that are in a situation where it’s kind of how we play the last two to three weeks of the season. I hope our team just executes and plays well. We’re a little more dynamic offensively than some of the teams we’ve had here, have a few more weapons, so maybe that helps us. Experience is not a factor; we have older players. We have guys that have been through the wars of the league, so we’re not going to be wide-eyed about any of that.

“It’s still really hard to win games on the road, so that’ll be challenging for us here down the stretch with several road games left, and we’re going to have to continue to shoot the ball and make our free throws to win close games, which is what a lot of this boils down to, a lot of two-and three-possession games where you’ve just gotta find a way to win them.”

Notes: Clemson has a 12-7 record in its series with Boston College and has won the past two meetings. … Clemson will finish this season with more ACC wins than non-conference wins, the first time the program has accomplished that since the 1966-67 season. … Jaron Blossomgame reached 1,000 career points against Georgia Tech and will be presented a commemorative ball prior to Wednesday’s game.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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