Tigers trying to stay strong knowing NCAA Tourney aspirations are likely gone

Tigers trying to stay strong knowing NCAA Tourney aspirations are likely gone

Basketball

Tigers trying to stay strong knowing NCAA Tourney aspirations are likely gone

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CHARLOTTE — Prior to Wednesday’s loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament, Clemson controlled its own destiny when it came to its post-season aspirations. Now, after blowing an 18-point lead, the Tigers post-season tournament fate lies in the hands of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

“There is nothing we can do to help it. They are going to make a decision, if we are in, we are in,” guard Shelton Mitchell said following the 59-58 loss to the Wolfpack. “Regardless, we just have to live with it.”

Clemson (19-13) appears to be on the outside looking in when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. All the close losses have finally caught up with the Tigers, who have a 1-6 record in games decided by two points or less. They have lost five of those games on the last play of the game.

“You see, when you look at our schedule, we played the best teams and went down to the wire with them and it came down to one possession games,” guard Marcquise Reese said. “So, I think we can play with the best at the end of the night.”

The experts don’t think they can. ESPN’s bracketology expert, Joe Lunardi, has Clemson as one of the first teams out after its loss on Wednesday, while CBS’s Jerry Palm also has the Tigers sitting outside the tournament.

Despite Clemson having an NCAA NET ranking of 36, it is sitting as one of the first four teams out because of its 1-10 record against Quadrant 1 competition. The Tigers were 6-3 against Quadrant 2 teams and were 9-9 in the ACC this year.

But the ACC already has eight teams in the tournament, with NC State being the eighth, and it unlikely the committee is going to give the nation’s best conference a ninth bid. Of course, St. Mary’s upset of top-ranked Gonzaga in its tournament finals on Tuesday did not help Clemson’s chances either.

“The game is over with now. We just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday,” Reed said.

It’s likely the Tigers’ name will not be called for an NCAA Tournament bid, which means the NIT seems to more in the cards for Clemson. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Tigers and their fans after they had such high hopes for this season with four seniors—Mitchell, Reed, Elijah Thomas and David Skara—back from last year’s Sweet 16 run.

“All we can do is keep our head up,” Thomas said.

When asked would they be motivated to play in the NIT, the Tigers said they would be ready to play.

“Definitely, it would be another opportunity to play at home, so that would be good to play back in front of our gym and just keeping tallying up wins,” Reed said.

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