It’s been obvious for a while these next three weeks would go a long way in defining Clemson’s basketball season.

On the bright side, late January approaches and the Tigers matter. Clemson (13-4, 4-1 ACC) is tied for second in the ACC standings, garnering the league’s attention by topping Duke and stealing a couple road wins within the conference on its way to equaling all of last year’s win total with at least 14 games remaining.

“A huge story is how well Clemson has done,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said on Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference. “They’re a program right now, not a team.”

Are the Tigers for real? Ask again on Valentine’s Day. Here it comes, that dreaded five-out-of-six on the road trip, one of just two ACC teams (North Carolina State’s the other) saddled with such a stretch.

“We’re going to have to find a lot of grit,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We’re going to show a lot of toughness and maturity, and play exceptionally well to come out of this well.”

The biggest challenge: location, location, location. First up is the Petersen Events Center, home of No. 20 Pittsburgh (16-2, 4-1) for the last 12 years.

“People don’t realize,” Brownell said, “Pitt is one of the best home courts in all of college basketball.”

The Panthers are 11-0 at home this year and 191-22 (.897 winning percentage) all-time, trailing only Gonzaga for the nation’s best winning percentage for a team in its current venue.