Clemson got the much anticipated at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, receiving a 7-seed and drawing 10-seed Rutgers from the B1G. It is Clemson’s first NCAA tournament invitation since 2017-18, when they reached the Sweet 16. This was about the best draw the Tigers could hope for after suffering their only bad loss of the season to Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament.
Despite the sour ending in the conference tournament, multiple quality wins in non-conference play (2-seed Alabama, 4-seed Purdue, 10-seed Maryland) pushed the Tigers ahead of of teams ranked above them in the ACC standings: Georgia Tech (9-seed), who won the ACC tournament, and Virginia Tech (10-seed).
Should Clemson defeat Rutgers (15-11) on Friday, they would face either 2 seeded Houston or 15 seeded Cleveland State in the second round. Regions really don’t matter that much this year considering the “bubble” approach to the tournament that will bring all the teams to the Indianapolis area for the duration of the event. STS will have a deep dive game preview ahead of this first matchup this week.
The Tigers have a chance to make this one of the best seasons in school history. It certainly has felt strange because this team has not flashed the dominance of the last NCAA tournament squad. While Clemson isn’t all that hard to guard and certainly not flashy, the team is very strong defensively and has been pretty opportunistic this season after suffering several years of coming up short in close games the majority of the time.
Rutgers is a team that started the season strong but was not as good in the back half while dealing with the very deep B1G conference. Clemson avoids having to see a 1-seed in the second round and has a mid-major 2-seed rather than a power 5 behemoth like Baylor or Illinois as a probable second round opponent should they advance.
It is important to understand perspective when it comes to Clemson basketball. This is a program with precious few NCAA tournament appearances and just three trips to the Sweet 16 ever. Any time the team punches a ticket to the Dance, Tiger fans should salute and call it a good year. A win, especially two wins, would completely erase the sour taste of the ACC tournament and hopefully provide the coaching staff a boost on future recruiting efforts.