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Georgia Tech Basketball: Clemson Q&A

Shakin The Southland's Ryan Kantor answers some questions about the ACC matchup between Georgia Tech and Clemson on Monday night.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

You can find my answers to his questions here.

FTRS: After some ugly non-conference losses to Winthrop, Gardner Webb, and Rutgers earlier in the season, are most Clemson fans satisfied with how the team has bounced back so far to manage an above .500 record in conference play?

RK: There are certainly no qualms to be had with a .500 ACC season, but already being out of NCAA tournament contention make it feel a little empty.

FTRS: Like Tech, Clemson had a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame last week. What could that win have done for the team in potentially putting in a position to make a run for the NCAA Tournament?

RK: I think Clemson had to beat both Miami and Notre Dame on their recent road trip to have a good chance to break into the NCAA tournament field. Clemson still has games at Duke and at Notre Dame remaining so even if we had beaten Notre Dame at home, it would have been extremely difficult to reach 20 wins.

FTRS: What do you think Clemson needs to do to get into the tournament at this point? A Duke victory? Four out of five to end the season and two or three wins in the conference tournament? Is there really much of a shot?

RK: KenPom favors us in just two of our five remaining games, but we'll likely need to win four and then likely will still need an ACC tournament win (which puts us at 20 wins). Winning four of five would mean a win at Duke or Notre Dame. Honestly, I'm trying not to focus on the NCAA tournament and just hoping for progress for an NIT run and for next season.

FTRS: This is a program that really seems to be on the rise after a nice NIT run last year. What has changed?

RK: It's interesting to get an outsider perspective, because we've gotten rather down on the program since the ugly non-conference losses. Brownell got stuck with a few missed recruiting classes so to speak so once Purnell's key player's left, things fell apart.

It's been a long road back, but it looks like Brownell's defense will be consistently good and the offense can click when there are some reliable shooters. Hopefully sharpshooting PG transfer Avry Holmes can give the offense another gear and they can take another step. I've been saying all season that Brownell needs to guide this program back to the NCAA tournament by the end of the 2016-17 season (when his buy-out decreases) to keep his position, and I believe he'll get the job done.

FTRS: What two players should Tech fans be looking out for on Monday night?

RK: Jaron Blossomgame, an Alpharetta native, has emerged as Clemson's best player. Slightly undersized at PF, Blossomgame has greatly improved his quickness over the offseason and has just enough shooting touch that defenses can't give him space. He does a better job than any other Tiger getting to the FT line, leading the team with 122 FT attempts (double any other player except Rod Hall), and he's scrappy and will find ways to get easy buckets off of put backs.

Jordan Roper is the single most important player in Monday's game. That's not hyperbole. Roper has scored 12 or more points in five of the last seven games, Clemson is 5-0 in those games and lost the other two. He is a smaller two-guard with a beautiful left-handed stroke. He hit 5-6 threes in scoring 21 points against Virginia Tech. If he comes out hot, Clemson will win.

FTRS: What do you see happening in this one? Can Georgia Tech get over this bad funk against Clemson, or do the Tigers continue the dominance and get this one in Atlanta while looking forward to taking them at home again next week?

RK: Clemson might just be the most unpredictable team in the ACC, but KenPom is favoring the Yellow Jackets so I tend to think a GT win is the most likely scenario. Still, Clemson has won 10 straight in the series and if Roper can carry over his hot shooting from Saturday then Clemson should pull it out.