On Tuesday night, Clemson will travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest in the Tigers’ final away game of the regular season. The Tigers have an opportunity to finish 5-4 in conference road games this season, not an easy task in a very competitive ACC. Clemson has already defeated the Demon Deacons once this year when they beat them 61-53 in Littlejohn Coliseum. In that first meeting, KJ McDaniels led the Tigers with a double double performance of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan Roper also added 11 points as Clemson initially struggled offensively, but then pulled away late as they have several times this year.
As most teams have this year, Wake Forest struggled to produce offensively against Clemson’s strong defense. The Deacons received a solid showing from sophomore sharp shooter, Tyler Cavanaugh, who had 12 points in the game. Cavanaugh was the only Wake Forest starter to have any real impact on the scoreboard, but they did receive double digit efforts off the bench from Coron Williams with 13 and Arnaud-William Adala Moto with 10. Overall, the three players for Wake that came off the bench nearly outscored the five starters combined. Wake Forest does not have a particularly strong offense, and they usually rely on their star senior, Travis McKie. However, at only 6’7″, McKie relies heavily on his speed and athleticism to score, something which Clemson also has. McKie was held to only 2 points in the first meeting on 1-7 shooting. If Clemson can once again shut him down, it should be easy for Clemson to outscore the Demon Deacons.
This game is another must win for Clemson if they have any dreams of making the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have ridden the success of their early season win over Duke, who is proving to be one of the nation’s best team, but they need more now. The Tigers have had an incredible season thus far, considering they were picked to finish next to last in the conference in a preseason coaches’ poll. A win over Wake Forest would put Clemson at a surprising 9-6 in the conference and seemingly in position to be a bubble team for the tournament. However, Clemson’s very weak non-conference schedule, ranked only 266th toughest in the nation, is really hurting their resume. Not only is their schedule bad, but the Tigers did not perform very well in it, losing road games to two sub par SEC teams in Arkansas and Auburn. Though Clemson has impressed thus far, they will likely need to win all of their four remaining regular season games to maintain any chance of making the tournament. After Wake Forest on Tuesday, Clemson will take on Maryland, Miami then Pittsburgh, all at home. Maryland is a team currently with a record of 7-8 in the ACC, and therefore, does not qualify as a great win for the Tigers, but perhaps a good one. Maryland has come close to upsetting the conference’s three top teams in Virginia, Syracuse and Duke. Though they are not a tournament team either, a win over Maryland could help Clemson. Miami is a poor 5-9 in the conference and is another game Clemson can not afford to lose. Pittsburgh, who started very strong in the conference and was ranked for several weeks has steadily fallen apart over the last few games and may not even finish with a winning conference record. However, the Panthers have shown a lot of talent and still could be a quality win for a Clemson team look to prove themselves. More than likely, Clemson will have to win at least three games in the ACC Tournament, including an upset of a ranked opponent to have a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament.