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Though disappointed, Tigers confident they can get to New York

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell is a straight shooter. He does not try to sugarcoat things. So when he was asked on Monday was it disappointing not to make the NCAA Tournament for a sixth straight year, he said there was disappointment.

“It is what we wanted to play in,” he said. “We were close, but that is not what we needed. So there is some disappointment from that, but having said that we cannot worry about it. We have to get on to the next thing.”

The next thing is the National Invitational Tournament as the Tigers, a No. 2 seed, host Oakland on Tuesday in the first round at 8 p.m. inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

“It is another opportunity to keep playing,” All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame said. “Whether it is NCAA or NIT, I’m glad I have another opportunity to play a game in Littlejohn. We don’t want to be quite done just yet. I’m definitely excited for it and I think with the draw we got we can make a run to New York. So I’m excited for it.”

The Final Four of the NIT is played at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and though that is appealing to Blossomgame, he admitted it was a little bit disappointing Clemson fell short of its goal of making the NCAAs.

“I can’t speak for the team, but myself it is a little bit,” he said. “I know we are a lot better than the NIT. I know we are a talented team and not being able to get there in my last year was disappointing, but we have another opportunity to keep playing.”

Clemson (17-15) did not make the NCAAs because it lost 10 games by seven points or less, including a 79-72 loss to eventual ACC Tournament Champion Duke last Wednesday. They also lost four games by two points or less.

The Tigers have won three of their last four games coming in, and Blossomgame is confident they can make a run similar to the one they made three years ago in the NIT when they advanced to the Final Four.

“We are very confident, even in the losses.” Blossomgame said. “We had a good showing at the (ACC) tournament. We could have beaten Duke. They are a good team, and like I said, we are a good team, too. Just like all the other teams in this conference. This is one of the best conferences I have played in.

“We are confident we can win every game we are in and we are confident we can win the NIT.”

But before they win the NIT, they have to beat Oakland first. The Golden Grizzlies come in with a 24-8 record and as the Horizon League regular season champions.

“We would like to, but right now we just need to worry about Oakland,” Brownell said. “Certainly we had good memories from the run a couple of years ago. It was fun seeing the electricity in Littlejohn during that run. That was a team that really caught fire and was playing well. It was fun to watch those guys, especially K.J. and kind of his swan song, if you will.”

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