Brad Brownell is fully aware that this will come across as cliché and textbook coach-speak, but, no, he and his players aren't thinking about March Madness or even the prospects of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.
That’s certainly not a stretch for a team sitting at 9-7 on the season, but a slightly deeper dive into the Tigers’ undefeated January run gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “New Year’s resolution.”
“Two weeks in a marathon, that’s all,” said Brownell, Clemson’s head coach. “But we’re not thinking about March at all.”
Not last weekend when they broke a 59-game losing streak at the Dean E. Smith Center by knocking off North Carolina 79-76 in overtime; not Tuesday night when they stunned No. 3 Duke 79-72 and not even after learning that it’s the first time they’ve knocked off the two blue bloods in the same season since the 1995-96 season.
“Everyone outside of the program has the luxury of looking at it like March is right around the corner,” Brownell said. “But, for us, it’s still two more months of battling.”
The operative question is: What are the Tigers doing differently?
Brownell said it’s a combination of two things: small tweaks to the offense, which put the players in a better position to be successful, and “the obvious confidence that comes along with being successful.”
Keep in mind that the Tigers opened the season with just seven players returning from last season; only one was a starter. Junior guard Clyde Trapp returned in late December after tearing his ACL over the summer and has given the Tigers a tactical boost in the backcourt.
“We want to build on the momentum,” Brownell said. “That’s the focus.”
The Tigers’ surge couldn’t have come at a better time. Sitting in the middle of the pack at 3-3 in the ACC with 14 games left in the regular season, including a Jan. 25 meeting at No. 11 Louisville, certainly puts the proverbial ball in their court.
Still, they’ll need to capitalize quickly in a down year by ACC standards with most bracketology projections awarding the league just five spots in the Big Dance.
First up? North Carolina State on Saturday.
“We’re just trying to put consecutive good weeks together,” Brownell said. “Our guys are just excited about how we’re playing and being recognized for how they’re playing. We haven’t actually said not to talk about March, but we’re not talking about March. Not at all.”