Are the Tigers NIT bound?


by - Senior Writer -
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<span style=Photo by Dawson Powers / USATODAY">
Photo by Dawson Powers / USATODAY

The Clemson basketball team won’t be going dancing this season, but another trip to the National Invitation Tournament appears to be the Tigers’ likely postseason destination.

The Tigers have been like the loneliest person at the prom – dances have been few and far between – making the NCAA Tournament just 11 times in school history, posting a 9-11 record. Clemson made the NCAA Tournament the first time in 1980 and made seven appearances over the next 19 seasons.

The Tigers made three consecutive appearances in the NCAA under Oliver Purnell from 2008-10 but lost their first round game to lower seeds all three times. Fifth-seeded Clemson lost to 12th-seeded Villanova 75-69 in 2008, No. 7 seed Clemson lost to No. 10 seed Michigan 62-59 in 2009, and No. 7 seed Clemson lost to No. 10 seed Missouri 86-78 in 2010.

Brad Brownell took the Tigers to the NCAA a fourth consecutive season in 2011, knocking off UAB 70-52 in the first round before losing to West Virginia 84-76 in the second round. The Tigers haven’t been back to the NCAA’s since that game.

Clemson has made the NIT 15 times, the last time in 2014. That K.J. McDaniels-led team defeated Georgia St., Illinois and Belmont – all at Littlejohn Coliseum – before losing to SMU in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

According to the latest NIT bracketology, a Brownell-coached Clemson team will make the postseason for the third time in his tenure. Unlike 2014, however, when the Tigers rode home-court advantage all the way to New York, this year’s Tigers will likely have to start out as road warriors. Clemson is 4-10 away from the Bon Secours Wellness Arena this season.

The Tigers finished the season by losing four of the final five games, including blowing an 18-point lead to Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament last Wednesday. Five consecutive wins in ACC play (Florida St., Syracuse, Louisville, Duke and Miami) had the Tigers poised for a big season, but the Tigers lost eight of the last 13 in the conference, dropping the team’s RPI to 128th in the NCAA, just ahead of Wake Forest and Boston College in the ACC.

Despite the late-season slide, however, the Tigers still appear to be in good shape for the NIT. The NIT features a 32-team field chosen right after the NCAA chooses the 68 teams in its tournament. It awards automatic bids to regular season conference champions who do not otherwise go to the NCAA tournament. Also, the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament become automatic one seeds in the NIT.

BracketMatrix.com sees Clemson as a No. 6 seed in the NIT and playing on the road at No. 3 George Washington.

Big Apple Buckets also has Clemson as a six seed, but they have the Tigers playing at three seed Houston.

Dratings.com has Clemson as a No. 4 seed – if that’s the case, the Tigers will play a game in Greenville.

The first three rounds of the NIT are hosted at the campus site of one of the participating teams. For each game, the higher-seeded team will have the first option host unless logistical circumstances preclude such an opportunity.

The first, second and quarterfinal Rounds will be held March 15-23 at the campus sites, with the Semifinals and Final held March 29 and March 31 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The NIT Selection Show will be held Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.


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