Clemson upsets Duke, blows up ACC with straight wins over ranked teams

In terms of midseason surprises, Clemson’s 4-1 run to start ACC play is as unpredictable a turn of events as there is.

The Tigers defeated No. 9 Duke on Wednesday night, winning out 68-63 at home and holding the Blue Devils to a season low in the process.

This is a team that was one game over .500 and in the throes of a forgettable season when the calendar turn to 2016 less than two weeks ago. Now Brad Brownell’s squad has reeled off consecutive victories against Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville and vaunted Duke. Where did this come from? Clemson dotted its dossier earlier in the season with rough defeats against multi-bid middlings such as UMass, Minnesota and Alabama.

To go from that to an at-large candidate in such a short period of time is pretty nuts. Your thoughts, Brownell?

Nobody saw this coming, and in the process, Clemson is actually helping out an in-state foe. South Carolina, which has yet to lose a game this season, defeated the Tigers back on Dec. 18.

Clemson got a team-high 17 points from Jaron Blossomgame, in addition to 16 from Donte Grantham. The Tigers were helped in the foul department; it’s not often Duke is so outdone by the whistle, but the Blue Devils went 2 for 7 from the free throw line, while Clemson was 12 for 13.

The ACC has now become something of a quagmire. North Carolina and Pitt are still undefeated, and right beneath them, you’ll now find Clemson, Duke, Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech (?!) all with one loss. Virginia and Notre Dame have already taken two league losses, while preseason chic picks NC State and Florida State are still winless.

It’s not an every-year or even every-other-year kind of thing to see the ACC tossed into some chaos. Maybe the next two weeks brings some “proper” results and the continents shift back into their projected place for 2015-16, but it would sure be more fun if not.

Duke’s loss here will cause some to stop and examine what’s really there for the Blue Devils to be proud of this season. There’s that home blowout of Indiana, but that’s it right now for victories against teams that would right now project into the NCAA Tournament. VCU, Georgetown and Yale could wind up in the field when all’s said and done, but for now, Duke has a lot to prove toward it being worthy of a top-10 ranking.

This win marks the first time in almost 27 years that Clemson has won consecutive games against ranked teams. The last time this occurred, it was the end of the 1988-89 regular season, and coincentally enough, Duke was also the ninth-ranked team in the country (the Tigers’ other win came against Georgia Tech).

The Tigers are now presented with another beautiful opportunity to inflate their résumé with a home game against a ranked team. Miami comes to town this weekend, and if Brownell’s guys win that game Saturday, not only will it mark the first five-game winning streak for Clemson since 2011, but it will most definitely vault the Tigers into next week’s polls.

Clemson has won four straight league games after losing its ACC opener. (USATSI)

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