Clemson Men’s Basketball: Early losses could help keep Tigers grounded

Feb 23, 2022; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Al-Amir Dawes (2) reacts with guard Chase Hunter (3) after a play during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2022; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Al-Amir Dawes (2) reacts with guard Chase Hunter (3) after a play during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports /
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Clemson Men’s Basketball enters their Wednesday contest against the Louisville Cardinals in sole possession of first place in the ACC.

It has been several years since the Tigers have been in a similar position. People often say “Act like you’ve been there before”. This Clemson team hasn’t been there before.

In a year that the ACC doesn’t feature a dominant team, there has never been a better opportunity for Clemson to take advantage, but when a team occupies the top of the standings, they suddenly get a target on their back. Additionally, you can make the argument that Clemson is far from the favorite still.

They still have games against the six ACC teams that are ranked ahead of them in the NET and KenPom rankings. They also have nine more games against the balance of the league. That is a lot of games left to play.

Under normal circumstances, it might prove difficult for head coach Brad Brownell to keep his team focused as they move into the meat of the ACC schedule. To fans, the college basketball season seems short, but to the teams, fifteen games can seem like an eternity.

Dealing with hype can make that challenge harder, even for experienced teams.

The Tigers have one thing that might give Brownell an advantage. There is a reason why Clemson has six ACC teams ranked ahead of them in the NET and the KenPom rankings, despite there being no dominant teams.

Clemson lost two games during the non-conference schedule which are holding them down like lead balloons.

The Tigers lost to South Carolina in the second game of the season 60-58. Since then, the Gamecocks are 7-8 overall. Clemson is the only team from a major conference that South Carolina has beaten.

The Tigers also lost badly to Loyola Chicago in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta 76-58. The Ramblers are now 6-9. This was not the Loyola teams of the past few seasons that made a splash in the NCAA Tournament. Like South Carolina, the Ramblers have beaten one major conference team all season: Clemson.

Clemson Men’s Basketball won’t have to worry about high praise for some time yet

Despite the success in the first five games of the conference schedule, Clemson is just now digging out of the hole it created for itself. Losses happen in college basketball. They are inevitable. You just hope that when you have a chance for a lay-up, you can convert.

Clemson missed two lay-ups this season. They could have let that hold them back, but they put both losses behind them and played with confidence.

Now those losses might help them. If the Tigers can win when they host Louisville and Duke this week, they will likely find themselves ranked, but not very high. They will move up in the NET and KenPom, but only so much. They might find themselves in the next Bracketology projection, but likely a low seed.

The pollers, metrics makers, and bracket predictors will give them a little love, but it is going to take a lot more to make them forget the South Carolina and Loyola Chicago debacles.

For now, Brownell doesn’t have to worry about high praise for his team. That might be the best thing going for this squad right now.

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