CLEMSON — Twelve days ago the Clemson basketball team was comfortable with a projected 3-seed by the NCAA Tournament Committee.
But after dropping three straight games, the questions have become: Are the Tigers still safe?
Before the losses, the Tigers were ranked 11th in the nation with a chance to move into the top 10 with a victory over Duke on Sunday. However, the Tigers were without starting point guard Shelton Mitchell, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Florida State earlier that week.
Nevertheless, the Tigers, who are accustomed to having injuries on their team this season, fought hard but ultimately fell short by a final score of 66-57.
The Tigers did not fall too far in the rankings even after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season as they dropped four spots to No. 15 with a matchup against Virginia Tech looming large.
The Tigers went on the road Wednesday night and, once again without Mitchell, suffered a heartbreaking defeat — a third straight loss.
But even with the current rough patch, Clemson is still in very good position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
The Tigers are projected as a 5-seed in the East Region by ESPN, and a 3-seed in the Midwest Region (published Feb. 19) by CBS Sports.
The main reason the Tigers have not fallen further, even with their current losing streak, is their strength of schedule is still ranked as one of the best in the nation.
The Tigers’ boast the 21st-ranked strength of schedule, including three wins over top 25 teams, no bad losses and an RPI of nine.
With three games remaining, the focus now turns to finishing strong as one of the metrics the NCAA committee weighs heavily is the way a team performed in its final 10 games. The Tigers are 5-5 over the last 10 games.
Clemson is currently favored in all three of the final games, according to ESPN -- Georgia Tech (93.8), Florida State (73.3) and at Syracuse (53) — and has a projected final regular season record of 22-8 and 11-7 in the ACC.
The Tigers are all but a lock to be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010 with their strong play through the month of January, but if Clemson wants to be playing closer to home and with a higher seed, the team needs to find the winning formula again.