The Tigers performed excellently in the non-conference play going 11-1 with a loss to Temple and KenPom top-100 wins against Ohio State, Florida, Louisiana Lafayette, and South Carolina. The Tigers continued their strong play to a 9-3 record in ACC play, but slowed late in the season following critical injuries. After the loss of starting PF Donte Grantham (knee), the Tigers finished 7-6. Three of those losses came without PG Shelton Mitchell, who had a concussion, but is now back and healthy.
For their efforts the Tigers earned a #5 seed in the Mid-West Region. They’ll play #12 New Mexico State on Friday in San Diego. If favorites win, the Tigers path would require them to go through #4 Auburn and #1 Kansas to each the Elite Eight. The Tigers have only reached the Elite Eight once in school history!
New Mexico State ranks #55 according to KenPom. They went 28-5 and won the WAC Tournament Championship. Along the way, they played just six teams in the KenPom top-100, going 3-3 in those contests.
New Mexico State has made the NCAA tournament five times since Clemson’s last appearance, but has gone 0-5 in those games.
This is the matchup Clemson wants and frankly deserves. The Tigers, who rank #19 in KenPom will be favored against the NMSU Aggies. This isn’t another Villanova matchup that Clemson fans remember with such bitterness. On top of that, the potential #4 seed they’d play with a win, Auburn, finished the season 4-5 over their last nine games as injuries took their toll
The Tigers have a great chance to reach the Round of 32 and a solid chance to make the Sweet 16, neither of which has been done by Clemson since 1996-97. It seems at times that Clemson basketball can never catch a break, but finally we have.