Tigers get No. 7 seed, to face Missouri in NCAA Tournament's first round

by - Senior Writer -
Byran Narcisse and Jerai Grant react to Clemson's selection to the NCAA tournament. (Photos: fotoman)

NCAA Tournament Bracket

CLEMSON – Despite a two-game losing streak and the perception of a down year in the ACC, the Clemson basketball team wound up with a No. 7 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament as announced on the NCAA Selection Show Sunday afternoon.

Clemson (21-10) will face Missouri (22-10) in a battle of Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 19 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY. Tip time for the contest will be at 2:35 p.m. The winner of the Clemson vs. Missouri game will face the winner of the West Virginia vs. Morgan State game on Sunday.

This is the third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for Clemson, just the second time in school history the Tigers have been selected for three straight tournaments. The only other time it has been done at Clemson was in the 1996-98 era. Clemson is one of 21 schools in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.

Clemson is facing Missouri, a team that is almost a mirror image of the style that Clemson plays - a pressing, running, trapping team. Missouri leads the nation in steals with 10.9 per game, while Clemson is eighth with 9.6 per game. Missouri is second in the nation in turnover margin as well with a +6.7 per game figure. Missouri averages 77.6 points per game, and has six different players averaging at least 8.2 points per game.

Clemson averages 73.3 points per game and has six players averaging at least 7.0 points per game. No player on the Missouri team averages more than 27 minutes per game. Clemson has just one player over 29 minutes a game and that is senior forward Trevor Booker at 30.6.

Mizzou is also a team that many considered to be on the bubble because of an end-of-season slide that ended a surprising 22-10 season that included a 10-6 record and fifth-place finish in the Big 12, the nation's highest-rated conference.

Missouri split its final eight games, and have lost three out of four since starting forward Justin Safford tore an ACL on Feb. 24. The lone victory was an OT win over 3-11 league rival Iowa State, and Mizzou got embarrassed by last-place Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

However, Mizzou also had a season that included quality league wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas by a team that lost its three leading scorers to graduation after last year's Elite Eight run.

Clemson guard Tanner Smith said he expected a lower seed, but also said that in the end, seeding doesn’t matter because all of the teams are good.

Oliver Purnell talks to media after Clemson's selection to the NCAA tournament. (Photos: fotoman)

“I think based on last year, we thought we would be a lower seed,” Smith said. “Now we are playing a Missouri team that plays a lot like us. I thought we would be a minimum of a 10 seed, or a nine seed, so we can’t complain about being a seven seed. But once you get up into the middle seeds, it really doesn’t matter because you are going to be playing a good team that proved themselves throughout the year. We will just have to be ready to go.”

Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said that the No. 7 seed is a reward for Clemson’s entire season.

“I think it speaks to the body of work we’ve had this season, and the respect the tournament committee has for our league,” Purnell said. “We have played a strong schedule and have some outstanding wins, including six wins over teams in the tournament and five ranked in the top 50 of the RPI, including four in our last 10 games. I haven’t seen Missouri a lot in the past, but they certainly love the up-tempo game and pressure defense. They love to get up and down the floor just like we do so it could be an entertaining matchup.”

This will be just the third meeting between Clemson and Missouri, the first since 1996-97. Missouri defeated Clemson in Honolulu in the December of 1986 Rainbow Classic by a 69-64 score. The Missouri win ended an 11-game winning streak to start the season for the Tigers. Clemson then defeated Missouri in Puerto Rico in November of 1996 by a 47-45 score at the San Juan Shootout.

Missouri is led in scoring by 6-6 wing guard Kim English, a sophomore from Baltimore, MD. He averages 13.9 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game. Marcus Denmon is a 6-3 guard from Kansas City, MO who averages 10.8 points per game and has made 42.5 percent of his three-point shots.

Lawrence Bowers is a third double figure scorer for the Missouri Tigers. The 6-8 forward from Memphis scores 10.2 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding with a 5.6 figure. Keith Ramsey is the top rebounder on the team with a 5.7 figure. He is a 6-9 senior from Murfreesboro, TN.

Clemson guard Demontez Stitt said defense will be at a premium and that he thinks the game will be important for seniors Trevor Booker and David Potter.

“It will be an up and down, back and forth type of game,” Clemson guard Demontez Stitt. “There could be a lot of scoring; with us, after we score want to press and then get down on the defensive end and guard guys. I think this would mean a lot to those guys [Booker and Potter]. This could be their last game in a Clemson uniform, so we are going to come out and be ready to play.”

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