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Fade Alert - Clemson

If it’s the month of January, that can mean only one thing when it comes to Clemson basketball: it’s time to jump off that bandwagon – and fast.

Let’s take a look at recent history:

In the 2005-06 season, the Tigers were 13-3 and 2-1 in the ACC. The finished the regular season 18-11 and 7-9 in conference play, then were bounced in the first round of the ACC Tournament. That brought only an NIT bid.

In 2006-07, Clemson started 17-0, 3-0 in the ACC, and climbed to No. 14 in the country. The Tigers lost nine of their final 13 conference games and finished 21-9 overall in the regular season. A first-round loss in the ACC Tournament again brought only an NIT bid (although the Tigers did reach the final).

In 2007-08, the Tigers were 14-3 and 2-1 in the ACC. That team fared OK, finishing the regular season at 22-8 and 10-6 in the conference. And thanks to two ACC Tournament wins, the Tigers got an NCAA bid, only to be one and done.

Last season, Clemson started 16-0 and 2-0 in the conference. It climbed as high as No. 9 in the polls. So naturally the Tigers lost their next two games but did finish a respectable 9-7 in the conference and 23-7 overall. But that’s obviously .500 ball after the terrific start. The Tigers were one and done in both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament – losing to No. 10 seed Michigan in a first-round upset.

Obviously there’s a point to all this, and that brings me to this season. The Tigers looked like a legit threat in the ACC two weeks ago after spanking then-No. 13 North Carolina by 19 (which doesn’t look so good now). That broke a 10-game skid to the Heels, and many thought the Tigers wouldn’t look back.

But following a hard-fought win over N.C. State a few days later, which improved Clemson to 15-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference, the Tigers have begun their fade. First there was a two-point loss at Georgia Tech. Then a 13-point loss to Duke, dropping the Tigers to 2-24 in their past 26 against the Dukies. OK, the Jackets and Blue Devils were ranked, so that’s acceptable. But then Clemson laid an egg on Tuesday in losing by six at Boston College. The Tigers allowed BC to shoot 56 percent from the field and had beaten the Eagles by 16 earlier this season.

Now, to play devil’s advocate in explaining this three-game skid by the Tigers, two of the three L's did come on the road, and ACC home teams are winning 71 percent of the time during conference play. Clemson didn’t have starting point guard Demontez Stitt against BC, and he was hampered by a sprained ankle in the past two losses as well (totaling 20 points, three assists, five turnovers). Maybe sitting Stitt (say that 10 times fast) on Tuesday will get him back to 100 percent.

And the Tigers need Stitt, as they don’t have much other than him and forward Trevor Booker. Clemson has scored below 70 points in a game just four times this season – all four have been losses, including the past three games (0-3 ATS).

The schedule sets up well for Clemson for the next few weeks, as four of its next five games at home (where it is 6-2 ATS) beginning Saturday against current ACC leader Maryland. None of the next five opponents are currently ranked, either.

But this team has a scary history of going into the toilet at this time of year, so I would steer clear until proven otherwise. And if the Tigers don’t get it together now, the NCAA Tournament probably is a pipe dream.

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