SPORTS LIBRARY, CLEMSON BASKETBALL

CLEMSON — The Clemson men’s basketball team is living in rarified air.

The Tigers enter this week ranked 11th in the nation and in second place in the ACC. They have amassed a 20-4 overall record, a 9-3 ACC record before the midpoint of February and a projected No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be the highest seed in school history. The seeding projection comes from the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.

The task for head coach Brad Brownell now becomes two-fold: prepare his team for the final stretch run of ACC games and not to let the potential historic seed in the NCAA tournament derail his team.

I hope it’s just more of the same for us. It’s not something that we’ll talk about much,” Brownell said. “I’m sure that some of the media will talk about it a little bit, but our guys have done a pretty good job this year of just, we talk a lot about daily improvement and just focusing on the things we can control right there in front of us.

“Haven’t worried at the beginning of the year when nobody thought we were going to be very good, and haven’t paid much attention when we started to have some success. So, I’m hopeful that that’s not something that distracts them too much, but certainly it is a nice reward for the guys to know that we’ve been ranked and playing well.”

And play well is exactly what the Tigers have done over the season, but especially the last four games.

Clemson is a perfect 4-0 with wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh since their loss at Virginia on Jan. 23. In fact, the Tigers now own the longest winning streak in the ACC and are in sole possession of second place in the league behind Virginia.

The Tigers rose five spots in The Associated Press Poll after games last week, when Clemson played only once. For Brownell and company, while the bye week provided an opportunity for some players to get over some illness, they wanted to just keep playing.

“We did have some guys battling some sickness. Marquise Reed had the flu during the Pitt game, so I think it was probably good for him to have some time over the weekend to rest. But I do think that when you’re playing well, sometimes you feel like you’d rather just keep playing.”

The Tigers get back to playing games Wednesday as they travel to Florida State (17-8, 6-7 ACC) to take on the Seminoles (7 p.m.)

Clemson will be looking for its first win in Tallahassee since the 2015 season, and will also be looking to break a current three-game losing streak to the Seminoles. The Tigers’ last win came more than two years ago (Jan. 2, 2016).

“Going down to Florida State is always extremely difficult of a place. We play those guys twice every year, so we know how they do things,” Brownell said. “They know how we do things. They’re unbelievably hard to beat down there. They just play extremely hard, defend very well. Offensively, they share the ball. They’ve got a lot of guys that are capable scorers right now. They’re a little bit like us, there’s really almost five guys that are double figure type scorers.

“They almost have six guys averaging nine points or more. So certainly they have tremendous size and length around the rim. But as much as anything, (Florida State head coach) Leonard (Hamilton) gets their teams to play really hard.”

The task for the Tigers does not get any easier when they return home this weekend for a matchup with the Duke Blue Devils.

But for Brownell, it is just another week in the ACC.

“Only had one game last week, came off a nice win against Pitt at home on Thursday,” Brownell said. “We had our bye week over the weekend, so we didn’t play. We got to give our guys a couple of days to rest and get ourselves ready to go. Obviously, we have a big week this week. We play at Florida State on Wednesday, and then host Duke on the weekend. So another big week in the ACC.”

Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.

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