The Clemson Tigers are a top-25 team, sitting at fourth place in the ACC with a 21-7 record.
Clemson is likely headed for a four seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. Very few expected the Tigers to have this level of success this season, especially given that the team has been absent from the tournament since 2011. A four seed would tie Clemson basketball’s best tournament ranking ever and their best since 1997.
The Tigers have achieved a level of success uncommon to their program this season thanks in no small part to their top-30 ranked scoring defense. Clemson’s most significant strength on defense has been their ability to contest shots without fouling.
Currently, the Tigers sit just outside the top-20 nationally when it comes to blocked shots per game. They’ve also committed the 13th fewest fouls amongst division one teams this season. In addition to the blocks and foul statistics, they’ve also held opponents to a field goal percentage just a hair over forty percent on the season, placing Clemson firmly near the top of the nation in that category.
Leading the defensive charge for the Tigers this season is forward Elijah Thomas, who leads the team in blocks. Thomas also possesses both a block percentage and a defensive plus/minus that are each nearly double the next closest Tiger. While Thomas is roughly an average threat on offense, his defense more than makes up for any deficiencies he might have and his impact can’t be overstated.
Of course, Clemson’s season has not been without troubles. A major injury to Donte Grantham earlier this year has not been an insurmountable blow to the Tigers scoring depth, but his ability and leadership surely would have helped come tournament time. Additionally, six of Clemson’s seven losses thus far came at the hands of conference opponents, showing that the Clemson basketball program still has a way to go before establishing themselves to be amongst the ACC’s best.
Only time will tell if Clemson’s unexpected regular season success will translate to postseason success. The Tigers have certainly proven that they can get it done on both ends of the court, home or away. However, it’s difficult to know what to expect when the team has been away from the tournament for so long, and only has nine tournament wins in their history anyway. In any case, the Tigers have given reason this year to be excited about their performance on the court once again.