For the second time this season, the Clemson basketball team has seen its season suddenly stopped in the midst of a hot streak.
The ACC announced on Monday that Clemson’s upcoming road matchup with Notre Dame on Wednesday night would be postponed due to Covid issues inside the Clemson program. The last time that happened, the Tigers had won nine of their first ten, before having to pause all activities for eight days.
Even when they got back on the court, they were without their head coach for longer than that, as Brad Brownell was not able to return until the day before a blowout loss at home to Virginia. Clemson would eventually lose four of five after the pause, with all four losses coming in blowout fashion.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Tigers seemed to have recaptured the recipe that led to so much success over the first ten games. Clemson has won four of its last five to move to 13-5, are currently fifth in the ACC standings (7-5), and Brownell hopes that his team responds better this time than they did the last time they were forced to pause.
“We did not play well for a couple of weeks, and it was not all COVID-related,” Brownell told the ACC media on Monday. “Then the last two weeks we have gotten back to playing the right way and have won four out of five. We had a spirited practice, as you would assume, yesterday. It was eerily similar to when we called them off the court the Friday before we were supposed to go to North Carolina when our guys were about to practice.”
Brownell says his team has been fortunate as far as the number of players that have actually had the virus. At the same time, the head coach says that everyone inside the program knows that means they have to be extra careful.
“We have been fortunate that we have not had many players get it so that is a good thing, but obviously, that is a dangerous thing too,” Brownell said. “We have had some, and we have to be careful, so we are on pause here for at least a couple of days to try and test and find out how rampant it is in our program.
“Hopefully, like the last time, it is not too many folks, but you have people that are contact traced and out for ten days and a couple of people that obviously have it will be out a week or whatnot. So, we will see what happens here in the next few days.”
Brownell then went into how challenging it has been managing a season in such unusual circumstances, but says at the end of the day the health of his players has to come first.
“So, it is hard because a lot of this in these long seasons, the morale of your team, the spirit of your team and where your team is at that time is often as important as anything you do as a coach,” Brownell said. “Are your guys in a good frame of mind? Are you confident? Are you practicing well? Do you have guys in a good mental state, probably this year more than any, both individually and collectively as a group?”
“Needless to say, after the last two weeks, after we won four out of five, you have a nice last-second-fun win like we did against Georgia Tech and your team is in a really good place and you want to play, but obviously, you can’t jeopardize the health of your players or putting another team at risk in this situation. That is first and foremost in all of this.”