Any hopes Clemson had of competing for an NCAA title were officially put to rest Sunday night, when the selection committee revealed the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament and the Tigers did not hear their name called.
This came two days after Virginia knocked off Clemson (23-10) 76-56 in the ACC tournament semifinals Friday, unknowingly ending the Tigers’ March Madness aspirations.
Instead, the Tigers were named a No. 1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament, giving them an opportunity to show why they feel they should have been dancing in March Madness. On Wednesday Clemson will host Morehead State (21-11), who will also be fired up after falling short of the Big Dance.
“We lost a couple of games that we probably shouldn’t have, and we put it in the committee’s hands,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “When you do that, sometimes you’re not going to always get the call you want. … Having said all that, I still adamantly feel like they made a mistake.”
The Tigers are led by the frontcourt duo of Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall. Tyson, who received All-ACC first-team honors, leads the team in points per game (15.5) and rebounds per game (9.5). Hall, an All-ACC third-team selection, is averaging 15.4 points this season.
Morehead State finished as the top seed in the Ohio Valley Conference and was the favorite to represent the OVC in March Madness, but those hopes were crushed when they were upset by Southeast Missouri State in the semifinals.
“Although it’s not the NCAA Tournament, it’s an amazing opportunity to represent our institution,” coach Preston Spradlin said about the NIT. “We’re excited about that.”
Spradlin will need his key players to embrace the opportunity if they want to take down Clemson.
Mark Freeman is the heart of the Eagles’ offense, posting team-leading averages in points (15.0) and assists (3.8). Alex Gross (11.9 ppg) and Drew Thelwell (11.0 ppg) also chip in double-digit averages, with Gross grabbing a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media