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Clemson men’s basketball making case for NCAA Tournament

While plenty of people were worried about exams and Christmas shopping, the Clemson men’s basketball team was going on a tear. The Tigers won six straight games in December including a 16-point thrashing of their rival, South Carolina. Junior guard Marcquise Reed went off leading all scorers with 25 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and over 50 percent from beyond the arc. He led the Tigers in minutes played as well as defensive rebounds. It was an overall magnificent effort from a veteran leader. 

Reed has been one of the main forces leading the Tigers through January as well. He again led the Tigers to a win over rival Louisville in overtime on Jan. 6, 74-69. Reed’s 24 points were a game-high as well as his five steals which were a personal best. 

Last year, the Tigers had problems winning close games. In fact, they lost twelve games by six points or less, but this year has been much different. Head Coach Brad Brownell trusts his starting five and the veteran presence they have. Reed, guard Gabe DeVoe, forward Donte Grantham and guard Shelton Mitchell have started all 19 games and lead the team in minutes played as a result. Those extra minutes have helped lead the Tigers to their best record in 20 years and an AP ranking of 20. 

The schedule only gets harder, though. After tough losses to NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, Clemson has to go on the road against number two ranked Virginia and then play the Tar Heels again, but this time at home. Their previous meeting did not go so well for the Tigers who committed early turnovers and failed to convert free throws in an 87-79 loss at the Dean Smith Center. It marked the sixtieth straight loss for the Tigers on that court. 

Halfway through February, the Tigers get another tough matchup with currently number five ranked Duke. This matchup comes at home, but is no less difficult. 

Duke’s wins over top ten opponents Michigan State and Florida already cemented their status, but an extra gut punch came last Saturday when the number three recruit and Spartanburg native Zion Williamson chose the Blue Devils over the Tigers. If it is any consolation, both of Duke’s losses have come on the road and against ACC opponents.

If all goes well over the coming month, Clemson could find itself back in the NCAA tournament. Their last tournament appearance was in 2011, but the last time the Tigers made it past the first round was in 1990. It hasn’t been the easiest road, but they have played some pretty good basketball in the last few weeks which could serve as a springboard into an even better second half for the Tigers. 


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