Florida State and Clemson faced off for the second time this season on Saturday, both middle-of-the-pack ACC teams fighting for every win they can get now to improve the chances of making the NCAA tournament in March.
Clemson entered the weekend alone in third place in the ACC standings while FSU sat between Syracuse and Georgia Tech at No. 11. But the standings are a flip of the NCAA tournament picture, as Jerry Palm sees it now, where the Seminoles are in the field of 68 and the Tigers are on the wrong side of the bubble.
The Seminoles got the better of Clemson on Saturday thanks to its high-scoring freshman duo of Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. No other freshman pair scores more (33.6 points per game) and against the Tigers Bacon and Beasley went for 37 combined in a 76-65 win. The Tigers cut the lead to one midway through he second half but a season-high 18 turnovers and poor shooting kept them from breaking through after halftime.
Florida State now has back-to-back ACC wins, both by double digits, and two winnable games coming up on the schedule (NC State, Wake Forest). If Bacon and Beasley continue to score at this clip, with some help from newly-crowned assist king Xavier Rathan-Mayes (on pace to become the first FSU player to lead the ACC in assists), then we will see FSU remain in the tournament picture and several more bacon-related Tweets from the team’s Twitter account.
— FSU Basketball (@fsuhoops) January 30, 2016
Clemson’s victories against Syracuse, Louisville, Duke and Miami highlighted a run that threw the ACC into a temporary state of chaos, but now Brad Brownell’s team has entered the more manageable part of its conference schedule. Keeping that same mentality Clemson had in the big wins will be needed to close out conference play to crash the NCAA tournament.
See, as great as Clemson’s start to ACC play was, it didn’t totally erase the damage from a bad 7-5 start. Jerry Palm’s got the Tigers out of the tournament right now and there are only two top-50 teams left on the schedule before the ACC tournament. To make it to the dance Clemson needs some help, but it can also control its outcome with wins against its peers in league play.