Tired Tigers welcome the opportunity to keep playing

by - Senior Writer -

TAMPA, FL – Greetings from beautiful – and slightly warm – Tampa, Florida, host to the second and third rounds of the men’s NCAA Tournament, where the 12th-seeded Clemson Tigers will tip off against 5th-seeded West Virginia Thursday afternoon around 12:15 p.m. in the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Tigers arrived in Tampa around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, following their first round win over UAB and subsequent flight from Dayton, Ohio, to Tampa. The team then arrived at the hotel around 5 a.m., making for a short day.

Most of the players said that they were too excited to sleep on the plane on the flight from Dayton. Bryan Narcisse did his part in trying to make sure everyone got the rest they needed by acting as a flight attendant and passing pillows out to everyone as they waited for the flight to leave Dayton.

He was joined by assistant head coach Dick Bender, and the two actually got so involved in making sure that everyone was properly equipped that the pilot had to break in, saying “If we are done passing out pillows and everyone could please take their seat, it’s time to leave the airport.”

Needless to say, most of the Clemson players admitted that they were too excited over the school’s first NCAA tourney win in 14 years to get much sleep on the plane.

“Just for me, I know personally myself, I got a little bit of sleep on the plane, not too much,” Clemson senior guard Demontez Stitt said. “I wasn't as comfortable as I wanted to be. I think for most of the players, their nerves are still up. Guys were saying we probably could have played again. That's just how I felt. I felt that we played well against our opponent. We did what we were supposed to do, and the flight down here wasn't too bad. “

Stitt said the flight seemed to take forever.

“We left right after the game, so we probably left around midnight,” Clemson senior guard Demontez Stitt said. “I remember checking my phone; the last time I checked it, about 12:00 we were on a plane. We didn't get here until 3:30 a.m., almost 4 a.m. It's pretty tough. It's a lot of traveling. But I mean, as players it takes a lot of mental concentration, a lot of focus in order to come out here and be prepared for West Virginia.

“The last 18 hours have been pretty, I guess, hectic. Played and right after the game we flew out, came straight down here. I mean, we got a lot of rest today, got to sleep in a little bit since we didn't really get in until early this morning, and I think we're feeling all right, man. We've been just getting ready for West Virginia.”

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said he let the players sleep until noon, and then the team took in brunch before watching film of West Virginia. Following that film study, the team bused over to the Forum for interviews and the team shoot-around.

West Virginia hasn’t played since a 67-61 loss to Marquette in the Big East Tournament back on March 8th, while the Tigers have played three games in that span. Stitt said that could be an advantage for the Tigers.

“Yeah, I think it could sort of work in our favor, “Stitt said. “We sort of got our motors running. We played the first game and we haven't been sitting out for a long time. Guys are sort of in the swing of things. So I think in a way it could be an advantage. But at the same time, if we don't get the proper rest that we need, it can also be a disadvantage. “

I overheard Brownell talking to the television crew on the sidelines during the team’s practice session, and he was asked how he was handling the fatigue his team must feel. Brownell said he told his players that there were other teams in the ACC – good teams – that would love to have the opportunity to be tired and play in the NCAA tourney, and they should relish every tired moment.

“It was difficult, but you know, it's the NCAA Tournament,” Brownell said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, so I'm not talking about the negatives. You know, we're going to be ready at 12:00 and we're going to lace them up and be ready to go. You know, we had difficult travel after the game last night. We're all probably a little sluggish today.

“We'd like more time to watch a little more film and feel like we could have a little better practice to get ready for West Virginia, but at this stage of the season, to be in this environment and to have this opportunity, you've just got to go play and prepare your guys as well as you can. And then players have got to go make plays. This is the time of year when players got to go make plays. And we think our team is playing well, and West Virginia is doing the same, so it should be a heck of a game.”

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