ESPN's Lunardi: Tigers Must Reach ACC Finals

With Clemson's recent surge in basketball, local radio shows and newspapers have declared that should the Tigers beat Miami and Duke in the upcoming ACC Tournament, they are all but a lock to receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. To give a dose of reality to the situation, spoke with ESPN "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi for the real scoop.

The Tigers are 18-11 overall 7-9 in the ACC and enter the first round game on Thursday at noon against Miami on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 1964. So, should they beat Miami and then the Blue Devils on Friday, are they likely to get into the NCAA Tournament.

"In a word, no," said Lunardi, who has only missed one team over the last three years in his postseason predictions. "They're not on anyone's radar right now. There are 15 teams right now fighting for seven spots and I don't even have them in my top 20.

"That would theoretically get them to 9-9 in the league and then you'd be comparing them to all the other bubble teams in the league, Florida State and Maryland, as well as all the bubble teams in all the major conferences. They need those two games just to get into the discussion."

As it stands now, there are a couple of factors that are hurting Clemson's chances. First, being ranked No. 70 in the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) Poll is the biggest problem. Also, the Tigers' strength of schedule ranks 59th, meaning all those non-conference against nobodies actually hurt them more than helps.

Sometimes it's better to take a loss against a very good team than to beat a very bad team.

Lunardi has only missed one team over the last three years in his postseason predictions.
There's also the "quality win" factor, which Clemson has basically none. Another stat the NCAA Selection Committee looks at is how many wins do a team against others ranked in the top 50 of the RPI. The only win for the Tigers is over No. 47 Maryland.

Clemson is 1-4 against team ranked in the top 50. It is also 4-7 against teams ranked in the top 100.

And that brings up the Terrapins, who finished with a better conference record (8-8) and who are much higher in the RPI and who have had a very hard schedule (ranked 12th). They are much better than Clemson in all those areas and as of now, they are on the outside looking in as well.

The Tigers need all those bubble teams to lose early and then to make a deep run in the ACC Tournament and end up playing for the championship to have a shot. They don't have to win it, but they at least need to get there just to be strongly considered.

"The problem with just beating Duke is that they have to play the next day," Lunardi said. "If they could just beat Duke and go home, that would be better than continuing to play, because then suppose they get hammered the next day, then they're below .500 in the ACC again."

Lunardi said there are so many factors that the average fan or newspaper reporter or radio host doesn't take into account, and that's why there's a lot of false hope created around the country.

"People who make statements like that are looking at one team in a vacuum," said Lunardi, "Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. If we do this, then we're in. Well, what about the other 15 teams that are contending? What are they doing? Are they beating better teams? Are they winning on the road? Are they playing better competition?

"I think to make a blanket statement that if I do X, Y will happen (is wrong). There are a lot of things black and white. The bubble is very gray." Top Stories