Ok this was one ugly game. It was painful at times but a road win against FSU is everything our tournament resume needed and we hit the magic 20 win mark. A fourth straight 20 win season and 20-8 record.
Mid Blog Pro OP RantFor all you OP haters out there, ponder this set of simple stats. Before OP took over, by my count, Clemson had only 7 twenty win seasons(it was possible to get to 20 wins consistently starting in about 1953 with 26 total regular season games, 28 started in 1974). So only 7 times before Ollie did Clemson achieve that goal. Now we have done it 4 straight times. Twice in the 70's, 3 times in the 80's, only twice in the 90's and now four times all with Purnell. Barnes is the only coach who took us to three straight tourneys, something hopefully Oliver will duplicate with this season.
We get frustrated with OP from time to time with lack of offensive sets, poor ft shooting, and an over reliance on the press from time to time but people don't mimic Gamecock fans and start thinking that we have arrived in bball. We aren't going to fire OP and bring in some power coach. Littlejohn and the general bball facilities need an upgrade and we don't have the recruiting budget of some schools. We are under .500 lifetime as a program for crying out loud. Let us just enjoy OP and win a game in the NCAA tourney!!
Speaking of making the tourney we are now 2-5 on the road which isn't good but its a lot better than the eyesore that was 1-5. We have no other major flaws in the resume and 8-6 in the conference isn't bad. I think if we split the next two we should be in. But that is still very debatable and dependent on other teams--what is really interesting is playing for the tournament bye. To have a shot at the ACC Champs you must have the first round bye and now FSU, Wake, VT, and Clemson are all even at 8-6. Duke and Maryland have all but wrapped up the first two slots.
We own the tiebreaker over FSU so our only game against Wake is all the more important since we lost to VT. TigerMax will have a more in-depth breakdown. But the way it is looking if we beat Wake we have a bye. FSU and Wake play on Wed. March 3rd.
Quick game notes--Tanner Smith continues to struggle but hit his first big shot of the season. Stitt had an ugly game and got frustrated with about six minutes to go, started turning the ball over left and right. We played good D and got some nice steals in key situations (obviously when down by one) but where we really struggled was getting the ball into the post when they were fronting Booker. Our offense consistently gets pushed off the ball and can't get into any rhythm so we end up making bad passes and taking bad shots bc we are always forced late into the 35 second count. We need a few different sets to mix it up and keep the D on their toes. Teams that pressure the ball well like Duke give us nightmares because we don't play strong enough with the ball.
Stitt needs to work on this the most. He couldn't drive at all today against not only the height but the ball pressure of FSU. Anyway, the season was slipping away but we held on and grasped a win out of the jaws of defeat. It was poetic to see their 81% FT shooter giant Alabi miss one and then watch Booker stroke 4 straight. Stitt also had two clutch FT's. Awesome win and maybe this is the momentum we need. We can beat Wake--it's Dino and besides they are overrated...
Update: Here is a video of FSU Coach Hamilton after the game, if you watch to the very end he gives this blank stare and little laugh. Must be a tough loss to stomach, glad to be on the winning end tonight.