It’s hard to imagine a more brutal start to the new year than Clemson’s performance throughout the month of January.
After an 11-1 start that saw the Tigers (14-7 overall, 4-6 ACC) climb from unranked to No. 16 in the country with non-conference wins over Alabama, TCU, South Carolina and others, Clemson seemed poised to solidify itself as a top contender in the ACC once conference play began in full force in January.
It’s been anything but fun.
The Tigers have fallen out of the top 25 polls and have dropped six of their last nine games, with uninspiring performances in losses to Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Clemson did come within a second of beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium after losing on a series of controversial calls, but they followed that up with a close victory over a near-historically bad Louisville team and a loss to Virginia.
Those performances have caused the Tigers to fall to a projected No. 8 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology update for ESPN.
The new projections, released this week, have Clemson facing Nebraska from the Big Ten in the 8 vs. 9 game at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, part of the East Region of NCAA Tournament games.
Clemson could help itself tremendously if it were to take down the ACC’s top-ranked team Tuesday in No. 3 North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Lunardi’s latest projections forecast just four ACC teams to make this year’s NCAA Tournament: Carolina, Clemson, Duke, and Virginia. The Tar Heels earn one of the four No. 1 seeds in Lunardi’s projections, along with Purdue, Houston, and overall No. 1 seed Connecticut.
Duke is a projected No. 3 seed while Virginia checks in as a No. 10 seed in Lunardi’s update.
Lunardi awards the most tournament bids by conferences to the SEC and Big 12 with nine apiece. The Big Ten is second with six, and the Mountain West and Big East are projected to have five bids each.