For the first time in nearly eight years, Clemson’s basketball team is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 25. The Tigers last tasted such a lofty ranking on Jan. 19, 2010, when they were No. 17.
After eight straight wins, the Tigers (12-1, 1-0 ACC) face a daunting task to maintain that ranking when they travel Wednesday to Silvio Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., to face dangerous Boston College (10-4, 0-1).
Just how dangerous? Ask Duke, which was ranked No. 1 until Boston College pinned an 89-84 loss on the Blue Devils.
Ask No. 8 Virginia, which persevered over upset-minded Boston College 59-58.
On their way to the Top 25, the Tigers have displayed a stingy defense with the ability to score in droves when needed.
“I’ve said for many years here, really good teams win in the 80s and they win in the 50s,” coach Brad Brownell told the Independent Mail of Anderson, S.C. “Last year’s team, we could win a little bit more by scoring and this year’s team I think we can win both ways. That’s when you have a chance to have more success. We want to run when we can, but we’re also not opposed to playing in a way that makes other teams grind.”
Complementing the Tigers’ tenacious defense is a balanced offensive attack. At 15.2 points per game, Marcquise Reed leads five players who average double figures.
Elijah Thomas is one of only three players in the country currently averaging at least 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting at least 60.0 percent.
North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keats praised Thomas, telling 247sports that Thomas was a difference maker in the Tigers’ 78-62 win on Saturday.
“I thought he was great on the defensive end … . He did a great job of playing off his teammates,” Keats said. “I thought he was in foul trouble for the most part. I thought he did a great job protecting the rim.”
The Tigers offer Boston College a golden opportunity to earn another signature win that could go a long way toward helping the Eagles land a berth in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Ky Bowman has already proved how dangerous Boston College can be when he had 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an 89-84 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Dec. 9.
Beating Duke not only got the Eagles some attention around the country, it just might have been a season-defining win for the program.
“I think the team you saw tonight came in here with a whole different mindset in terms of the belief and the confidence,” Boston College coach Jim Christian told the Boston Globe after the Eagles lost 59-58 to Virginia. “It’s just a different basketball team. We have players playing very well, but that’s a big step for us when a guy like Ky doesn’t play well and it’s still a one-possession game with two seconds to go.”
A clock malfunction gave Boston College two possessions under its own basket in the final 3.1 seconds to try to pull off another improbable win. But the Cavaliers’ defense held on and kept the Eagles from scoring.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Christian said afterward. “I would love to have seen us execute down the stretch, but I’m proud of them.”
With Bowman, Jerome Robinson and Jordan Chatman, Boston College has one of the most talented backcourts in the ACC.
Together, the three average nearly 48 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists per game. Robinson and Chatman are deadly from the free-throw line and Bowman has scored in double figures in every game except against Virginia.
BC’s backcourt didn’t go unnoticed by Virginia head coach Tony Bennett.
“After they beat Duke, they said they believe they have one of the best backcourts in the country, and they do. Those guys were terrific.”