Perusing today’s blogroll, we came across another
insightful ridiculous article from our favorite whipping boy Gary Parrish over at CBS Sportsline, er, whatever they’re calling it nowadays. His topic today was the Clemson Tigers, and how they were theoretically two plays away from an NCAA berth and overall fantastic season last year. He writes:
All the average fan remembers about last season is how the Tigers roared to a 17-0 mark before collapsing like an Iraqi government. After the best start in the country, Clemson closed the regular season by losing nine of its final 13, then dropped the ACC Tournament opener to enter Selection Sunday with a 21-10 record.
Goodbye NCAA Tournament hopes. Hello NIT.
So yeah, the 2006-2007 season was a big disappointment at Clemson, at least the roller-coaster aspect of it. But anybody who takes the time to take a closer look will quickly realize how close it was to being much different. In fact, if you’re willing to let me reverse two strokes of luck — just two moments from a season of countless moments — I can easily change two Clemson losses into two wins and transform a season of sorrow into one of celebration while making a convincing argument this is a program that could’ve entered this season ranked in the top 15 of every major poll.
Just hear me out. Take away the malfunction by the clock operator at Duke, and Clemson forces the Blue Devils to overtime on Jan. 25 and likely wins, if momentum is any indication. Take away a blown 16-point lead in the second half, and Clemson beats Virginia three days later.
I’m not asking for a huge leap of faith, am I?
Before we completely rail Parrish’s argument, let us make one point. We happen to agree with him that the Tigers have the third or fourth best returning talent in the ACC this year, and should be able to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. Does that translate to a top 15 squad? Probably not. Still, the 2007-08 Tigers should be Clemson’s most competitive ACC team in several years.
Don’t Get Your Hopes Up, Kid
Where we take issue with Parrish’s argument is that the media is somehow sleeping on Clemson because of last year’s collapse. He misses two key points.
First, he doesn’t discuss that the collapse was predicated once again on a non-conference schedule softer than Miss Teen South Carolina’s gray matter. According to Pomeroy’s RPI ratings, Clemson’s non-conference SOS last year was a paltry 214th in the nation. In its “roaring” 17-0 start, the best team Clemson played was at Old Dominion (CU won 74-70). When they finally got into the rigors of ACC play, their inevitable return to mediocrity occurred.
The second point is that Clemson seemingly does this every year. Is there another program in America that year after year has a great November and December, rises up the rankings, starts getting a little buzz, and just as quickly falls flat on its face in January? Bama has a tendency to do this too, but they also have good teams every couple of years. Consider the following:
- 2007 – Started 17-0, but finished 4-10 including 7-9 in the ACC. Went to the NIT Finals (4-1).
- 2006 – Went 11-0 to start the season, but closed 8-13 including 7-9 in the ACC. Received NIT bid (0-1).
- 2005 – Started 9-3 in pre-conference, but finished 7-13 including 5-11 in the ACC. Received NIT bid (0-1).
- 2003 – Went 10-0 in its pre-conference schedule, but finished 5-12 (5-11 ACC).
- 1999 – Started 11-1, but finished the regular season 5-13 including 5-11 in the ACC. Regrouped to go 4-1 in the NIT.
- 1997 – Started 16-1, but ended the regular season 5-7 (9-7 ACC). Made the NCAA Sweet 16.
In at least half of the past twelve seasons they’ve made everyone who starts hyping them in early January look foolish for doing so. Thank goodness that hype as a poll metric is virtually meaningless in our sport. But at the end of the day it should be easy to see why we roll our eyes when Clemson starts a season “hot,” as well as why we’re not ready to jump on the Clemson bandwagon for 07-08 just yet.