CLEMSON - For most coaches, a trip to the NIT following a losing season would be considered progress. But Jim Davis isn't most coaches.
Sure, Davis will be happy to return to the postseason with his Clemson Lady Tigers after a losing campaign a year ago. In fact, he wouldn't object if the school hosts the first round, and maybe the second if possible.
But after 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament in his first 16 years at Clemson's helm, Davis is spoiled. He's also realistic.
Getting bid No. 15 this season is a long shot.
"I'd say our chances are really, really slim," Davis said Tuesday. "I'm still holding out a little hope, but realistically it's not likely to happen."
The factors working against the Lady Tigers are formidable.
Clemson finished the season 17-11 overall, but 7-9 in the ACC. According to Davis, last year was the first time any team was ever taken to the Women's NCAA Tournament with a losing conference record.
Selection committees also like to see how a team fared down the stretch. The Lady Tigers lost eight of their final 10 games, including a 45-43 loss to N.C. State in the first round of the ACC Tournament last Saturday.
So one can understand why the normally optimistic Davis is a bit down. Trouble is, he's still searching for answers.
"Our rebounding killed us in the ACC Tournament, just like it killed us all year," he said. "We work on it every day in practice. It remains a point of emphasis. But for some reason we just don't perform as well as we should in that area."
The Lady Tigers also have found scoring to be a problem of late.
The 43-point performance vs. N.C. State was a continuation of recent struggles shooting the basketball. As teams began to focus on limiting the effectiveness of first team All-ACC performer Lakeisha Stokes, no one stepped to the forefront with consistent scoring help.
So given those factors, the late-season swoon is understandable. But it's also motivation for Davis, who wants his team on the floor at least one more time in 2004.
He just wishes it could be at the Big Dance.