Right off the bat, Clemson hasn't won more than two games in the tournament since 1962. And in the last 24 tournaments, the Tigers have lost their first game in 18 of them.
If that weren't enough, Clemson plays at noon Thursday against Maryland, a team which the Tigers swept this year. Conventional wisdom says it's very difficult to beat a team three times in one season. Then there's the fact that the Terrapins are fighting for the NCAA Tournament lives and will hold nothing back.
Moreover, the tournament is being held at the MCI Center in Washington D.C., which is roughly 15 miles from Maryland's campus in College Park, Md.
"It's a good matchup for us, yet at the same time we know that this is a highly motivated team," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "Obviously Maryland needs this game very badly, we were able to beat them a couple of times and they're right there in their backyard. So, it's a good matchup in one way and it's a bad matchup in another."
In the Tigers' two wins this season against Maryland, there were three key components to the victories.
First and foremost was the play of senior center Sharrod Ford, who in the two games combined shot 19-of-28 from the field (67.9 percent), scored 49 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, nine of which were offensive, had four steals and 11 blocked shots.
The Terrapins have no one person that can play against Ford one-on-one.
"They've got maybe three for four big guys that they try and throw at me, so it can kind of ware you down a little bit," Ford said. "But I think I've just played strong and been real aggressive. …
"I'm getting prepared for the double-teams and triple-teams."
The second biggest reason was Clemson's shooting. The in the two games, the Tigers made 15-of-30 3-point attempts and shot a collective 53.7 percent from the field.
"If we make shots from the outside we can put up 80 or 90 points because people are going to pay attention to Sharrod," Purnell said. "It's kind of been that way all year long. We're not a high-powered jump shooting team, but when we make shots we're going to score in the 70s, 80s and maybe even 90s."
And the final key reason the Tigers have been successful against Maryland is the play of freshman forwards James Mays and Sam Perry, and in particular Perry, who Maryland star forward Nik Caner-Medley has a hard time from keeping him active offensively and defensively.
"You can't keep (Perry) away from (the ball)," Purnell said. "That's up to Sam. … But I do feel that Sam's size and quickness allows him matchup with Caner-Medley in a decent fashion. …
"I think in those two games, other than making shots, the activity of (Mays and Perry) and spreading throughout the team is the next biggest key."
All those same keys will likely have to take place for the Tigers to win their third against Maryland. And even though the odds seemed stacked against it, the Clemson players believe they can pull off the upset.
"We try to go into every game confident that we're going to win the game," Ford said. "As long as we take care of the small things and things that we do good, then we should be fine.
"We're playing to win, no matter if we get in the NIT or whatever. We still have a chance at the NCAAs if we win the tournament, so we definitely want to win as many as possible."
Tigers Out to Advance
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