There's close, and then there's so close you can taste it.
Get that close, only to stumble at the threshold of success, and might-have-beens come to define and haunt your season. That's been particularly true for Boston College and Clemson, a combined 3-11 in ACC contests decided by five or fewer points or in overtime in 2013.
(Some close games may break open at the very last, perhaps due to semi-intentional fouling. But the five-point rule of thumb is relatively reliable.)
Any way you cut it, losing can be lousy. But when you repeatedly drop close games, when you flirt with victories that could salvage a disappointing season, only to see them melt away at the last, it surely takes a toll.
You can bet that's particularly true when you're a second-division ACC club playing one of the league leaders, and you have it on the ropes, home crowd roaring, only to squander all the good work that got you in a position to win.
Just ask Clemson's Brad Brownell.
Last Sunday the Tigers nearly ended Miami's undefeated run through the ACC, only to miss six of their last seven free throws, get called for a dubious blocking foul, and misfire on two final field goal attempts.
"We couldn't finish some plays that we've got to make," Brownell said after the 45-43 loss. "I thought we got the ball in great places on a lot of possessions, but you need to score to win."
Clemson has lost to Gonzaga, Arizona, Duke, Virginia, and in close verdicts to Miami and to NC State twice. The Wolfpack won on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Scott Wood on Feb. 10.
Or, ask Boston College's Steve Donahue.
The Eagles nearly upended Duke at Conte Forum two Sundays ago, holding a five-point edge with 2:15 remaining. But BC endured a prolonged late-game scoring drought, capped by a missed shot by guard Olivier Hanlan as time dribbled away.
"You have no idea how this tears you up," Donahue said after a sixth close ACC loss, this one 62-61.
Boston College also lost by a point at home against Miami, by two against Bryant - really -- and by three against Wake Forest and Florida State.
Strong, veteran teams tend to avoid close games. When caught in such circumstances, they're apt to have sufficient confidence to make the right plays. Teams that aren't sure they can win tend to fulfill their fears.
Nearly half of the Boston College's games have been close, a larger proportion than any other ACC team.
At the other end of the league spectrum, the smallest portion of close games have been endured by four of the top five teams. The outlier among the leaders is N.C. State, which went to the wire in seven of its last 10 contests. A sign of weakening, perhaps.
ACC Team Records In Games Decided By Five
Or Fewer Points Or In Overtime, 2013 Season
(Through Games Of February 19)
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