Clemson finds itself in an unfamiliar place at the end of the season... in the top 25. After several years of fast starts and disastrous finishes, the Tigers have managed to fight off the seemingly inevitable end of the year tailspin and are now a lock for the Big Dance.
They will be taking on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons who haven't lost the final home game of a season since 2004. Wake has also only lost one home game all year, so although Wake Forest is still getting used to its place as one of the top ten teams in the nation, the Deacs will feel right at home Sunday night...
This game is also Wake Forest's senior night, where Harvey Hale, Bobby Hoekstra, and Mike Lepore will be honored for their four years of dedication to Wake basketball.
Don't expect the Tigers to feel any sympathy, though. Clemson (23-6, 9-6 ACC) is potentially playing for one of the ACC's coveted top-four positions, which would earn them a first round bye in the conference tourney. They are currently tied for fourth with Florida State, but have lost to the Seminoles twice already this year. Therefore, despite having the same record, FSU would finish ahead of Clemson in fourth place if the season were to end today. If Florida St. loses to Virginia Tech tomorrow and Clemson beats Wake, then Clemson would earn fourth place.
The Florida State, Virginia Tech game is on at 2 PM, so the Tigers will know if they have a chance at a first round bye by the 6 PM tipoff. In other words, if you're a Clemson fan, then tomorrow you're also a Virginia Tech fan.
Wake Forest (23-5, 10-5 ACC) has already won on Clemson's home court earlier this year by a margin of 78-68. That match was, at the time, a battle of unbeatens and capped off an impressive sixteen game win streak for the Deacs. The story of the first meeting between these schools was Wake's defense, which limited the Tigers to less than 34% shooting from the field and just 5-23 shooting from 3-point range.
However, don't expect a scoring drought Sunday night. Both teams like a fast paced game. Wake and Clemson are 2nd and 4th in the ACC in scoring offense, respectively, and both teams feed off of turnovers. In fact, Clemson is 11th in the nation in block percentage (blocks per opp. possession) and 6th in the nation in steal percentage. This doesn't bode well for a Demon Deacons squad which has been struggling with turnovers all season.
And although both teams can score in bunches, they do it in completely different ways. Wake lives in the paint and at the foul line, whereas Clemson likes to shoot from behind the arc.
Trading twos for threes all game might not work for Wake Forest, so they'll have to rely on their defense... again.