Clemson will play Georgia Tech tonight at 9 in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Tigers (19-11, 10-8 ACC), who earned a first round bye and the #6 seed in the tournament will need to defeat the 11th seeded Yellow Jackets (16-16, 6-12 ACC) to keep their hopes of receiving an at large bid alive. Though they need to do much more than just beat Georgia Tech, Clemson can not afford to look past their first opponent of the tournament. The Tigers have already beaten Georgia Tech twice this year but will need to defeated them again to keep playing meaningful basketball.
Last night, Georgia Tech defeated Boston College, the tournament’s 14th seed, 73-70 in overtime. The Yellow Jackets led the majority of the game but a determined Eagles’ team overcame a double digit deficit to send the game to overtime. However, Georgia Tech outlasted their opponent’s resilience and advanced to face Clemson tonight. When it comes to tournament games, confidence and momentum can play a huge role. Georgia Tech has now won three in a row, including a road win against Syracuse, easily their best stretch of games all season. Clemson, on the other hand, is coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss in a game they desperately needed to win in their home finale against Pittsburgh. To slow down the Yellow Jackets, Clemson will need to limit their offensive rebounding, which they dominated against Boston College. The Tigers will also need to contest perimeter shots, as these played a huge role for Georgia Tech as they expanded their second half lead. Georgia Tech relied heavily on these aspects of their game on Wednesday and struggled mightily to score on their first shots. Overall, Georgia Tech has fewer offensive weapons than Clemson, and if the Tigers can play their consistent, solid defense, they should come away with a third win against Georgia Tech this year.
Clemson’s second round game tonight is the first step to getting the Tigers back into NCAA Tournament relevance. As other bubble teams around the nation face tough opponents in their respective conference championships, Clemson will need to stand out from the group, and they have an incredible chance to do so. If Clemson can advance past Georgia Tech, they will face Duke then, with a win, more than likely Syracuse in back to back games. Clemson has already beaten Duke once this season, so they should have confidence going into the quarterfinal match up. If they can then advance to the weekend to play what would logically be Syracuse, they would have the opportunity to win back to back games against teams ranked within the nation’s top 15. Very few other bubble teams have that opportunity, and if Clemson can pull it off they would be very difficult for the selection committee to ignore.