NEW YORK – Clemson’s run in the ACC Tournament came to an end following the Tigers 64-58 loss to Virginia in the semifinal round Friday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Luckily for the Tigers, after going 23-9 on the season, they’ve already secured a berth to the NCAA Tournament, which will be the first under head coach Brad Brownell since his first season at Clemson in 2011.
“We’re obviously extremely excited about this opportunity,” Brownell said after the Tigers’ loss to Virginia. “We’ve worked really hard, not just this season, but as a program to put ourselves in a better position to be able to do it more often.
“It’s hard in this league. You talk to a lot of us that aren’t at some of the blue blood schools, and it’s a battle every time to do this, so we certainly feel thankful and blessed that it’s going to happen. But we know how hard we’ve worked this year and really the last couple years to kind of make this a reality.”
In his eighth season coaching the Tigers, Brownell led his team to a third-place finish in the ACC, jumping 10 places from being originally picked to finish 13th in the conference. Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership and success from honorable mention all-conference guard Gabe DeVoe, who’s never played in the Big Dance.
“I’m super excited,” DeVoe said. “This is my first time having this opportunity to go to the tournament, and it’s huge for me. The locker room, the guys are really excited, and I think we’re going to have a lot of confidence going forward into the tournament, as well.”
At the beginning of the season, the seniors had all eyes on making it back to the tournament this year. Losing Donte Grantham to a torn ACL was obviously not part of the plan, but the team fought harder just for him.
“I’m as happy as I can be for guys like Gabe,” Brownell said. “I’m disappointed for Donte because it was something that we kind of set out to do this year. It was kind of our mission. And I do feel confident with our team.”
David Skara, Mark Donnal, and Marcquise Reed have all made appearances in the NCAA Tournament before they transferred to Clemson, but most of the squad has never made it to the big stage. For guys like Shelton Mitchell, Gabe DeVoe, and Elijah Thomas, it’s a lifelong dream come true.
“It’s a really good experience for these young guys,” Thomas said. “They have done such a great job this entire year helping us and giving up a chance to be where we are right now. It gives tribute to the seniors, especially Donte (Grantham) and Gabe (DeVoe), they have never been to the tournament. So for us to be able to know Sunday that we’re going to be picked to be in the tournament, it’s a big blessing.”
The goal that the team set before the season started to have Clemson’s name called on NCAA Selection Sunday is finally becoming a reality. It’s a chance to send the Tigers’ basketball program to new heights.
“Coming in knowing that they haven’t been since Brownell’s first year, this is another milestone for coach Brownell and Clemson basketball,” Simms said. “Hopefully we’ll just keep going on this run and set the standard for Clemson.”