Clemson Tigers Collapse at Maryland and Bring Back Familiar Feelings

Chris BurrowsCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2010

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 21:  Coach Oliver Purnell of the Clemson Tigers during his team's 75-69 loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images


At some point, it begins to sound like a broken record.

Twice in 2008, once at home and once in Chapel Hill, Clemson blew huge second half leads to the North Carolina Tar Heels.  20-point margins were whittled to single digits and then deficits with almost annoying certainty.

Clemson rebounded at the end of 2008 with a nice run to the ACC final.  When they got to the first round of the NCAA tournament, they built a massive first half lead over Villanova.  Things looked good for the Tigers to advance to the second round for the first time in the decade. 

Of course it was not to be.  Shots that were falling in the first half started finding the back of the iron.  A few timely turnovers and fouls ensued, and it was Villanova moving on.

Wednesday night’s loss at Maryland felt eerily like those other games.  Clemson found themselves up by 15, then decided not to play defense for the remainder.  A different venue and opponent this time, but the same result. 

Wins in the ACC are valuable enough.  Road wins in the ACC are nothing short of gold.  Picking up a win over the Terps, who have all but locked up a first round bye in the ACC tournament would have been massive. 

Now the Tigers find themselves behind the logjam of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Florida State.

At some point you have to question Oliver Purnell.  Is it scheme or motivation? 

The Clemson press has worked well at times this year, but it requires an immediate transition after a score or change in possession.  Last night, several Tigers were guilty of simply not getting back in time. 

At this point in the year, is it possible that players are no longer buying into the concept of making it a full-court game on every possession?

Running a high intensity scheme like a press requires a commitment to conditioning.  Even with injuries, Clemson has been one of the best conditioned teams in the ACC (and quite possibly the country) this season. 

But with the lack of depth on this team, can anyone expect them to sustain such a high level of play for three (or most likely) four ACC tournament games in a few days?

Obviously, there are more questions than answers for the Tigers right now.  Clemson was able to get three wins on their last home stand, which may be enough to secure an at-large bid into the dance. 

On the other hand, they are without a win over an upper-echelon contender in the conference, unless you are to count Florida State. 

What can a fan expect if the Tigers head into the NCAAs in reverse?  How does a seven, eight, or nine seed sound? 

At this point, it sounds pretty accurate.  Short of the Tigers making a late-season statement at Wake Forest or a run in the ACC tournament to gain a little momentum, an unfavorable spot in the bracket and a quick exit from the dance may just be the way this year ends.