Clemson is suffering from one heck of a post-New Year’s hangover.

Brad Brownell’s team has lost 4 of its last 5 games since turning the page from 2023 to 2024. That after having started the season 11-1 with a national ranking as high as No. 16.

So it’s understandable that a majority of the attention after Tuesday’s double-overtime loss to Georgia Tech would be focused on the slumping Tigers. But while it’s a valid concern to wonder what’s going on with Clemson, it’s just as easy to overlook what’s going on these days with its most recent opponent.

Even though Damon Stoudamire’s building process with the Yellow Jackets is still only in its infancy, the signs that it’s heading in the right direction are already unmistakable.

You can see it in the sets they run, in the intensity with which they defend and the fearlessness with which they’ve played in some of the ACC’s most hostile environments.

Three days before winning at Clemson, they had Duke on the ropes late into the 2nd half at Cameron before falling just short of beating the Blue Devils for the 2nd time this season.

At just 9-8 overall (2-4 ACC) with a NET ranking in the low 100s heading into Saturday’s home game against Virginia, it would be an extreme longshot for Stoudamire to get Tech into the NCAA Tournament in his 1st year on the job.

And for only the 2nd time since 2010.

But watching the Yellow Jackets play and listening to their energetic new coach speak, it’s hard not to get excited about the foundation in the process of being set and the direction in which the program appears to be headed.

“As I go through this ACC for the 1st time around, I’m enjoying it,” Stoudamire said. “But more importantly I believe in what I do and I think that as we move forward we have a chance to be a really good team.”

Stoudamire should know what “a really good team” looks like.

He played on one that got to the Final Four during his All-American career at Arizona, then made 6 straight NBA playoff appearances as a member of his hometown Portland Trailblazers. His coaching resume includes a 23-win season at Pacific in 2019-20 before leaving to become an assistant with the Boston Celtics.

If there’s one thing Stoudamire has learned from his experience, it’s that the most important building block for any program at any level is talent.

While he was blessed with a solid core of holdovers from previous coach Josh Pastner in leading scorer Miles Kelly and role players Kyle Sturdivant and Deebo Coleman, the most tangible sign of promise for the future is his ability to attract elite players of his own.

Not only did Stoudamire’s 1st recruiting effort at Tech include a top-20 transfer class anchored by Georgia native Kowacie Reeves, a former Florida Gator, he also supplemented his roster with a pair of star freshmen who have far outshined many of their more heralded classmates around the ACC.

While 6-foot-9 forward Baye Ndongo was a 4-star prospect who has already earned 3 conference Rookie of the Week awards while averaging 12.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, Canadian point guard Nait George was a relative unknown without any major offers before catching Stoudamire’s eye at the Peach Jam last spring.

Already off to a strong start at 8.9 points per game and a team-leading 66 assists, George has raised his game even higher of late by combining for 37 points, 11 assists and only 2 turnovers while going 7-of-13 from beyond the 3-point line in the close loss at Duke and the win at Clemson.

It was his trey with 2.3 seconds remaining that sent the game against the Tigers into overtime.

Even before that performance, George credited his early success to the belief he and his teammates have in what they’re building with the Yellow Jackets.

It’s a belief that comes directly from their coach, whose ability with Xs and Os is surpassed only by his motivational skill and a big-picture outlook that has helped him resist the urge to try and microwave success.

“I would never compare our program to anybody else, but we aspire to have sustainability in this,” Stoudamire said after the Duke game. “It’s not any fly-by-night thing. I watch from afar and I learn. I was part of a great program in college and I’ve seen great things. Likewise in Boston. So winning is entrenched in me and winning ways will be entrenched in my program as we continue to move this thing forward.”

Stoudamire and his Yellow Jackets will get a chance to show just how far they’ve already come over the next 3 games against Virginia – a team that has had trouble winning on the road – struggling Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech before getting a feel for how far they still have to go when they host No. 4 North Carolina on Jan. 30.

Regardless of the results, their growth as a program will almost certainly go unnoticed by most as they lurk just outside the spotlight and the top half of the ACC standings.

But don’t expect it to stay that way for long.