Tigers have an opportunity to secure a sure bid with a win over NC State in ACC Tournament
When Clemson lost five of its first six ACC games to start the conference season, the media and fans were doubting whether the Tigers could make it back to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.
Fortunately for head coach Brad Brownell and his coaching staff, it’s a good thing the players were not doubting themselves. The Tigers got off the mat and won eight of its last 12 league games, including this past Saturday’s 67-55 win over Syracuse.
Clemson finished the ACC season with a 9-9 record, playing itself right back into the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, as of Monday, has Clemson as one of the last teams in the field, playing in one of the First Four Games in Dayton. CBS’s Jerry Palm also has the Tigers in the field as one of the First Four teams.
“We had a few injuries this year and we got off to the 1-5 start in the league and had a lot of gut-wrenching losses along the way, but the last twelve games, our guys have sort had their backs against the wall and played great in most games,” Brownell said on Monday. “We won eight of them and three of those that we lost went to the last second. So, in eleven of the twelve games, we either won the game or we are battling in the last second of the game.
“I think our guys deserve a lot of credit for just fighting and competing and picking themselves up off the mat a couple of times.”
The fight is not over, though.
Clemson (19-12, 9-9 ACC) needs at least one win in the ACC Tournament, which begins on Tuesday in Charlotte, to solidify its tournament bid. A loss on Wednesday to NC State, who is also playing for their postseason lives, does not mean the Tigers are eliminated, but they will have to count on mid-major favorites to win their conference tournaments to assure that their bubble does not burst.
“We are going to Charlotte and we have big games ahead,” Brownell said. “We are playing an NC State team that beat us the first time a very competitive hard-fought battle and they have a lot to play for as well.
“I expect it to be a very physical game and a lot of energy from both teams.”
Clemson, the No. 9 seed, and NC State, the No. 8 seed, will tip off at noon on Wednesday to start Day 2 of the ACC Tournament from the Spectrum in Charlotte.