The Tigers demonstrated that they can win three straight ACC games by beating Maryland, Florida State and Virginia Tech late in the season (and jeopardizing the NCAA tournament hopes of the Terrapins and Hokies in the process). To win this weekend, Clemson would have to beat stiffer competition, which seems less likely, but the Tigers have a force in Sharrod Ford.
Ford scored 49 points in two games against the Terps, prompting Maryland Coach Gary Williams to say he is often overlooked in a conference that includes Wake Forest's Eric Williams, North Carolina's Sean May and Duke's Shelden Williams. Ford, a 6-foot-9 senior from Suitland, had three consecutive double-doubles between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1.
In mid-February, with an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament already out of the question, Clemson Coach Oliver Purnell found some positives with his young team.
Clemson appeared to overcome late-game struggles -- after losing four ACC games by six points or less it beat Maryland by four and Virginia Tech by two -- giving hope to pulling at least one upset at MCI Center.
"We've had a number of games kind of play out this way," Purnell said recently. "The positive is we're being competitive with most of the teams in this league, the negative is that we're not finishing off games. The reality is that we're very close."