Though it is the higher seed heading into Friday night’s second-round game in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament, No. 7 Clemson opened as a one-point underdog to No. 10 Rutgers, according to Bet Online.ag.
The news does not come as a surprise at all to Clemson forward Aamir Simms. He predicted on Sunday night the Tigers would have some doubters since they are going against a team from the Big Ten, which is being called the best conference in college basketball this year.
Simms was asked Sunday how he gets himself mentally ready for an NCAA Tournament game. How does he go about motivating himself?
“Honestly speaking, I kind of take a [Michael] Jordan approach to it,” he said. “You got to find something that is going to get you going, even if you have to make something up in your head.”
But luckily for the Tigers, they will not have to make anything up. They are the only higher seed that opened as an underdog in the Field of 68.
“Us being Clemson, a lot of people like to write us off really early. That is something we experienced my first year,” Simms said. “People picked New Mexico State to upset us and even in the Auburn game, so that alone is enough for us.
“Some people are going to [pick against us] going into our game and hopefully, our team will look at that and take it as a challenge.”
Clemson (16-7) is 2-0 this season against the Big Ten. The Tigers beat Purdue in the second game of the season to win the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Fla., and then knocked off Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
Purdue is the No. 4 seed in the South Regional, while Maryland is the No. 10 seed in the East Regional. The Tigers beat Purdue by 11 points and then beat the Terps by 16 points.
“Playing against the Big Ten earlier this year we kind of got a feel for the physicality and things like that,” Simms said. “So, it is about finding certain things that tick you off and just apply it to the game.”
Clemson is making its 13 appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its first since 2018. The Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2018 and are 11-12 all-time in the tournament.
Clemson and Rutgers (15-11) are scheduled to tip off at 9:20 p.m., Friday night from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on TBS.
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