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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

Poor Clemson.

The Tigers’ repeated close calls in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year have almost become a cruel joke. Even when it looks like they can’t lose, they still do.

Clemson led Virginia Tech by two points in the final 20 seconds, denied two Hokies chances at the rim and just needed another stop or, at worst, to limit them to no more than two on their final possession. Sure enough, Seth Allen hit a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. Tech won 71-70.

It was another tremendous ACC game in this banner season for the league. Neither team led by more than seven points, and the squads were tied 10 times and swapped the lead 14 times.

Clemson, though, is now 3-10 in games decided by six points or less. 4-11 in the ACC. 3-11 in its last 14 games. The Tigers can be forgiven if their frustration level is sky-high right now.

Let it be known: the Tigers have proven this year they are capable. There’s no disputing that. Back-to-back wins at Alabama and South Carolina in December were legit. UNC Wilmington is a very good team, and the Tigers beat the Seahawks by 14. Even Georgia is a solid win.

There’s also no joy in Clemson’s fate. Frankly, if there is an underdog basketball program in the league, it’s the Tigers (even more than Boston College, which had a good share of success in the Big East). Brad Brownell is an excellent coach, which he proved at UNC Wilmington and Wright State.

At some point, though, a team has to win games. Trying to rationalize Clemson as an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament just doesn’t cut the mustard. If we’re going to allow in teams with near .500 records and bad league marks, then what’s the point of even tracking a record? Help us if playing the right competition and playing them close is all a team needs to do to get an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

As far as it not being fair to a team from such a tough conference to be penalized for its schedule? Hogwash. Clemson chooses membership in the ACC, and it gets many fringe benefits from it, chief being endless amounts of revenue, the opportunity to play a bunch of non-conference games at home, and access to the NCAA Tournament if it can just win 10, 9, maybe even 8 league games.

If a school doesn’t like it? There are plenty of other regional conferences that would gladly take a Clemson, where they would presumably (as we’re told) have a much easier time dominating their league. Of course, they also would surrender almost all of the major advantages they have now. In that regard, a school like Clemson has one choice or another. But they can’t have it both ways.

Side Dishes:

  • It was a night for close shaves for highly ranked teams in games that on paper should’ve been convincing wins. Purdue needed overtime to win at Penn State 74-70, Baylor needed 21 points and 16 rebounds from Johnathan Motley to tip Oklahoma 60-54, and Kentucky needed a late run to beat Missouri 72-62.
  • Florida did not struggle. The Gators took control in the second half and topped South Carolina 81-66, with KeVaughn Allen scoring 26 points.
  • Whatever the numbers say, it’s impossible to deny: Wichita State is playing like a certain at-large team right now. The Shockers defeated Evansville 109-83, committing three turnovers. Three. That’s now 11 straight wins for WSU.
  • Dayton keeps setting them up and knocking them down in the Atlantic 10, defeating George Mason 83-70.
  • Georgia Tech took a very bad loss, falling at home to North Carolina State 71-69. That’s one the Yellow Jackets couldn’t afford. Also, Northwestern was dumped handily by Illinois 66-50. The Wildcats are still in decent shape, but a season sweep by the Fighting Illini is a definite hole. Good of a season as it has had, Northwestern is now just 3-8 against the 10 best teams it has played on its schedule.
  • Monmouth won its 14th in a row, handling Fairfield on the road 82-62. The Hawks certainly appear to be peaking at the right time.
  • A couple games went into overtime later in the evening, with Iowa coming back to beat Indiana in overtime 96-90 behind 35 points from Peter Jok, 22 on free throws. Also, Mississippi won at Mississippi State 87-82.
  • The Horizon League is coming down to the wire, with Valparaiso holding a one-game lead over Oakland with two games left after the Crusaders held off Wisconsin-Milwaukee 67-61 on Senior Night while the Golden Grizzlies blitzed Youngstown State 101-72. Valpo cannot slip; Oakland won both meetings between the two this season.
  • Later in the night, Colorado State won at New Mexico 68-56. The Rams have won five straight road games in the Mountain West and remain in first place. CSU also committed just five turnovers and got terrific games from Gian Clavell (22 points) and Emmanuel Omogbo (17 points, 14 rebounds).
  • Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki checks in with a pair of pieces on some CAA teams, including a story on College of Charleston’s success under Earl Grant plus Northeastern fighting through an injury-plagued season.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • We know that every year the ‘bubble’ gets labeled as bad, so we get it when people backlash at that being said this year. But ask yourself: would 14-13 Vanderbilt at 15-12 Tennessee (6:30 p.m. Eastern, SEC Network) in the less-than enchanting SEC be considered an important bubble game any other year besides this one? You know the answer.
  • Not sure how Syracuse’s loss at Georgia Tech was considered such a damaging one, especially since all will unquestionably be forgiven if it can beat Duke at home tonight (7 p.m., ESPN).
  • TCU goes to Kansas (7 p.m., ESPN2), and remember: the Horned Frogs lost the first meeting by just six.
    Big one in the Southern Conference, where Furman goes to East Tennessee State in a battle for first place.
  • If Vermont is going to finish its America East schedule undefeated it will have to earn it, albeit at home for its final two games, starting with Albany tonight.
  • Stumbling Xavier needs Trevon Bluiett back ASAP. Without him, a win at Seton Hall is likely a tough task (7 p.m., FS1), even against a Pirates team that often only goes six- or seven-deep.
  • Two young teams with a bright future meet with Minnesota at Maryland (8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). How the Terrapins bounce back after a blotchy second half at Wisconsin on Sunday bears watching, if this team is going to hit a wall it would likely be now.
  • Arkansas can’t afford a home loss against Texas A&M (8:30 p.m., SEC Network), though it would be very SEC-like if the Hogs did lose this one.
  • Nothing less than two potential Final Four teams meet when Louisville is at North Carolina (9 p.m., ESPN).
  • Not sure am buying California as an NCAA Tournament team yet, but the Golden Bears can change our mind quickly with a home win over Oregon (9 p.m., ESPN2).
  • It’s getting close to time to start talking about Connecticut again. Can the Huskies make it eight of their last night at Houston? (9 p.m., CBSSN)
  • Kansas State badly needs to beat Oklahoma State at home, and that’s really all that needs to be said (9 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Villanova tries to avenge one of its two losses when it hosts Butler (9 p.m., FS1). Also, Providence has an important road game when it travels to Creighton.
  • Big West leader UC Irvine faces improving Cal State Fullerton.
  • Boise State and Nevada meet in the Mountain West, with the winner back in a tie for first with Colorado State while the loser falls a game off the pace. The Wolf Pack won the first game in Boise with a big second half and clutch games from Cameron Oliver, D.J. Fenner and Marcus Marshall.

Have a great Wednesday.

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