Clemson Men's Basketball: Don't give up too quickly on this team

The Tigers lost their first home game of the season 65-55 against UNC and have their first losing streak, but this squad hasn't fallen into the same traps as previous teams.

Jan 6, 2024; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson junior forward Ian Schieffelin (4)
Jan 6, 2024; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson junior forward Ian Schieffelin (4) / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
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Clemson Men’s Basketball dropped their second contest in a row on Saturday as they fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels 65-55 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Ian Schieffelin led the Tigers' efforts with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Chase Hunter led the team in scoring with 17 points. PJ Hall had 10 points and five rebounds.

Unlike the loss to Miami earlier in the week, defense wasn’t the problem on Saturday. The Tigers were unable to find their range as the team started the game 0-8 from three-point range to start the game.

Despite this, Clemson was competitive with the Tar Heels until they hit one of their classic dry spells late and the Tar Heels were able to pull away.

The timing of the Tigers’ first two-game losing streak is causing frustration with a fanbase that has seen this movie before. There have been several times over the years that Clemson gets off to a fast start only to come back to earth as the season progresses, particularly as they move into conference play.

This swoon often coincides with the end of football season. No one will deny Clemson is a football school, and while some fans engage with as many Tiger athletic teams as they can, others tend to only tune into men’s basketball once the football season is complete.

As such, those fans have heard about a team that was ranked respectably in the NET and the AP Top 25 but has now lost both games since Clemson Football defeated Kentucky in the Gator Bowl.

This season does differ from others in a significant way. Many of those years when the Tigers faded as the season progressed happened because Clemson didn’t schedule a challenging non-conference slate. As such, they cruised against inferior competition and then were exposed when they faced ACC competition.

In other years, the Tigers simply couldn’t be consistent. While they played well in some contests against good teams, they tended to play down to their competition against teams that they should have beaten easily.

Last year’s squad was the convergence of both problems. The Tigers didn’t play a challenging non-conference schedule. While they did have some big wins against good programs, they also lost games to teams ranked very low in the NET.

This season does not fit into either pattern, however, and it gives reason to hope this is simply a bump in the road for this team.

The Tigers played a respectable non-conference schedule and were 10-1 against that competition.

The Tigers also haven’t dropped games to inferior competition. The only non-conference game they lost was to Memphis, which is ranked 15th in the AP Top 25 and 42nd in the NET. Miami is ranked 40th in the NET. The Tigers lost both of those games on the road.

While losing on their home court today was disappointing, North Carolina is ranked 8th in the AP Top 25 and 12th in the NET. By both standards, they are the most difficult opponent the Tigers have faced this season.

Clemson isn’t off to the ACC start their fans hoped for, but there is still a lot of season remaining for this team to bounce back. They return to action Wednesday at Virginia Tech.

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