Can Clemson 'Pull a Cuse' To Make the NCAA Tournament Field?

by Austin Silvey


Shelton Mitchell vs Duke on January 5, 2019 // Photo by Austin Silvey

Clemson basketball currently sits at 15-11 overall and 5-8 in ACC play. They have lost their last three games including two heartbreakers on the road against Miami and Louisville.


Fans are in an uproar and aren't pleased with how this season has gone. Before the year started, Clemson was pegged as a Top 25 team in the preseason polls and returned three full-time starters from last year's Sweet Sixteen team and two others that played a significant amount of time.

Making the tournament felt like a given before the year and as the Tigers come off their third straight loss with only five games left in the regular season, the path to the tournament looks bleak.


But is it really? The bubble this year is as weak as it has ever been and even though Clemson has lost a lot recently, so have the other teams sitting on the bubble with them.


To get to the point, we have seen teams in the past get into the tournament with pedestrian resumes and underwhelming records. One of those teams in recent years has been Syracuse.

*Kenpom: Tier-1 (A) are Top 50 opponents adjusting for location of game; Tier-2 (B) are Top 100 opponents with same logic


SYRACUSE (17-18 season with five game remaining):

  • overall record was 17-9 (6-7 ACC); they went 2-3 in last five and finished 19-12 (8-10).

  • they beat Clemson in Syracuse 55-52 to end the year.

  • in the regular season (according to Kenpom), Syracuse had THREE Tier-1 (A) wins and THREE Tier-2 (B) wins.

  • entered ACC Tourney as the 11-seed; they beat (14) Wake Forest in first round and lost to UNC the next day

  • entered NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed and played Arizona St in one of the First Four games; they made it to the Sweet 16 where they eventually lost to Duke 69-65.

SYRACUSE (16-17 season with five game remaining):

  • overall record was 16-10 (8-5 ACC); they went 2-3 in last five and finished 18-13 (10-8).

  • in the regular season (according to Kenpom), Syracuse had FOUR Tier-1 (A) wins and THREE Tier-2 (B) wins.

  • entered ACC Tourney as the 8-seed; they got a first round bye and lost to (9) Miami in second round.

  • did not make NCAA Tournament field; entered the NIT as a 1-seed and lost second round game to Ole Miss.

SYRACUSE (15-16 season with five game remaining):

  • overall record was 18-8 (8-5 ACC); they went 1-4 in last five and finished 19-12 (9-9).

  • in the regular season (according to Kenpom), Syracuse had THREE Tier-1 (A) wins and FOUR Tier-2 (B) wins.

  • entered ACC Tourney as the 9-seed; they got a first round bye and lost to (8) Pittsburgh in second round.

  • entered the NCAA Tournament as a 10-seed and got all the way to the Final Four where they lost to North Carolina 83-66.

CLEMSON (18-19 season with five game remaining):

  • overall record is 15-11 (5-8 ACC)

  • in the season so far (according to Kenpom), Clemson has TWO Tier-1 (A) wins and THREE Tier-2 (B) wins.

  • Five remaining games: vs Boston College, at Pittsburgh (A), vs North Carolina (A), at Notre Dame (B), vs Syracuse (B)

  • Kenpom has the Tigers projected to go 4-1 in these last five, losing to UNC, which would put them at 19-12 (9-9) going into the ACC Tournament. Finishing with that record would more than likely have them as the 8-seed or 9-seed in the ACC Tourney playing either NC State or Boston College on Day 2, which would be a good matchup for Clemson and a chance to get a tournament win to help bolster resume.

All of that to say that the season is still far from over for Tiger Nation. There is still a lot to play for, including a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It won't be easy but with the bubble as weak as it is, Clemson still has a great shot at securing a spot in the big dance if they take care of business down the stretch.


This season has been underwhelming, unlucky and tough for the team, coaches and fans. We all expected more out of this team and while there have been some mitigating factors leading to the Tiger's woes, it doesn't excuse it all away. But if the goal is to make the tournament, then standby just a little longer cause Clemson is still in the thick of the 68-team field and there is still a lot of basketball to be played.


Clemson rankings as of 02.20.19 at 6:36 pm EST:

- Kenpom (33)

- NET Rankings (43)

- Seven Overtimes (40)

- Massey (38)

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