Bracket Watch: Brownell makes final NCAA Tourney case for Clemson

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by - Staff Writer -
Brownell hopes the committee is very metric-friendly.
Brownell hopes the committee is very metric-friendly.

Clemson’s NCAA Tournament resume was largely set in stone on Wednesday with a 59-58 loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament second round. Brad Brownell and the Tigers have since been in the unenviable position of their NCAA Tourney fate relying on the results across the nation in conference tournaments, while hoping what they already did this season is enough to earn a spot.

On the outside-looking in of most projections currently, two key areas will determine their fate: reliance on the NET quadrant system and adherence to the metrics overall.

Clemson went 1-10 versus Quadrant 1 opponents, with Wednesday’s defeat being one of four of those losses by two points or less. Brownell noted for Clemson's argument in an interview with NCAA.com Friday that not all quadrant games are equal, with three of those 11 games coming versus top-7 NET teams (Virginia - 1; Duke - 3; UNC - 7) and six versus top-15 teams (Q1 games are home versus NET 1-30; neutral site versus 1-50; away versus 1-75).

Metrics haven’t punished the losses, however, with one of the strongest NET rankings among bubble teams (35) and a top-30 KenPom rating (29). ESPN's BPI projects Clemson with the resume of a 10-seed and the No. 26-ranked schedule.

Brownell says his team belongs in the field behind those metrics and a strong finish that bolstered them.

“To me the thing with Clemson is that the eye test, if you watch our team play, we were 8-5 in our last 13 games,” Brownell said in the interview with NCAA.com. “In 12 of the 13, we either won the game or lost at the buzzer. The last 13 games of the season, it’s going to the wire every game or we’re winning. In ACC games, seven of them (wins) are by double-figures and we beat Virginia Tech by eight points and Notre Dame by two. My point to that is that we’re not just winning - we’re winning significantly. When we win, we win handily and when we lose, we lose at the buzzer in a lot of our games.

“That shows you a team that is very competitive. That’s why our metrics are so good. It’s not an accident that our metrics are good. Our metrics are good because we’re a very competitive team.”

Commanding his first major program, Brownell understands the argument for the mid-majors but he appreciates the tough road his team has had to handle.

“This is a hard thing for the selection committee. I was a mid-major guy for a long time so I have a lot of respect for the mid major teams. I also think it’s easy to pick a mid-major because that’s the thing the people want to see,” Brownell said, adding some air quotes around the latter. “That doesn’t make it right. I think you have to be careful with that. I have all the respect in the world for Rick Byrd and Belmont and love him as a person and coach but at the same time it’s a different deal.

“They’re playing 20-some-odd Quad 3 and 4 games and we were 12-0 (in those games). Our record would be 25-and-whatever if we played more of those teams. It’s just a different deal and a hard one.”

Clemson is regarded as one of the 'first four out' by the compilation of projections on Bracket Matrix, only appearing on 27 of 124 brackets. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Tigers in his 'next four out, with all 12 in the last four in, first four out and next four out done going into postseason play. Among those teams, only NC State (34) and Texas (38) join the Tigers in the top-40 in the NET rankings and Clemson is ahead of both the Wolfpack (32) and Longhorns (30) according to KenPom.

Brownell's example of Belmont is 47th in the NET and 53rd according to KenPom. Another mid-major on the edge of an at-large bid in UNC-Greensboro is 59th in the NET and 81st by KenPom.


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