CLEMSON— The Clemson Tigers have stated their case to make the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season as they prepare to head to the ACC Tournament.
At least, according to head coach Brad Brownell.
“I certainly think, you know, if you watch us play, I think we look like an NCAA Tournament team without question,” Brownell said. “We’re 9-9 in our league with four losses that are six points, five points, something ridiculous that very easily could’ve gone our way in what I think is the best league in the country. We did things in the non-conference. It isn’t talked about very much but Lipscomb is tied for first in their league. Radford -- tied for first in their league. Sam Houston State is going to win their league. That’s three of our non-conference games that are teams that have won the regular season in their league.
“It’s just hard because you are comparing mid-majors, majors, we don’t all have the same things. I think if you’ve watched our team play, even in some of our losses -- last Saturday, at Louisville, at N.C. State -- we look like a team that is good enough to be in the tournament and do a lot of damage.”
Brownell has been stating his case for the Tigers’ worthiness to be included in the prestigious field of 68 team for the last month and a half of the season — even while the Tigers have suffered some heartbreaking losses.
The Tigers are currently sitting in the tournament, according to both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm — both of whom have the Tigers as one of the final four teams in the tournament.
The Tigers could very well be playing a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament when they take the court Wednesday (noon) in the ACC Tournament against the N.C. State Wolfpack — a team that defeated the Tigers in heartbreaking fashion earlier this season. The Wolfpack are listed as one of the final four teams in the tournament or one of the first four teams out of the tournament — depending on which analyst you believe.
The Tigers will have to once again prepare for a battle.
“We’re playing an N.C. State team that beat us the first time in a very competitive, hard-fought battle. They have a lot to play for as well,” Brownell said. “We are going to have great battles with those guys all the time. It was disappointing the way the last game ended. We did a lot of really good things to win the game.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t finish it. Give them credit for making a big-time shot. It’s just another important game and it’s in the ACC Tournament. You should be excited to play. It’s the best basketball tournament in the country.”
The Tigers have one final opportunity to state their case for being one of the 36 at-large teams selected to participate in March Madness — not with words, but with their play on the court.
So, for Brownell’s Tigers, the time for talking is over and the time to put the past behind them and perform is upon them.
“Really proud of the way we finished the regular season. We had a few injuries this year and got off to a 1-5 start in the league and a lot of gut-wrenching losses,” Brownell said. “The last 12 games our guys have sort of had their backs against the wall and have played great in most games. We won eight of them, and three of those that we lost went to the last second. So 11 out of 12 games to finish the league we wither win the game, or we’re battling at the last second of the game. So I think our guys deserve a lot of credit for just fighting and competing and picking themselves off the mat a couple of times.
“Having said all that, now we go to Charlotte and have big games ahead.”
Reed, Thomas get ACC honors
Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas earned All-ACC recognition on Monday.
Reed, a graduate senior guard, was named to the All-ACC Third Team. He earned preseason second-team honors and was named to the second-team last year.
Thomas, a 2017-18 All-Defensive Team honoree, earned back-to-back recognition for his ability to protect the rim for the Tigers. Not only is he an All-Defensive Team honoree this season, but an All-ACC Honorable Mention player.
Duke’s Zion Williamson swept the top awards as ACC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.