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Clemson misses NCAA tournament, but hopes to prove a point in NIT

Clemson was one of the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament Semifinals - Clemson vs Virginia Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson vs. Morehead State

Time: Wednesday, 3/15, 7:00pm
Location: Littlejohn Coliseum

The Tigers were a hair away from making the NCAA tournament, but their up-and-down season will instead end in the NIT. The Tigers had a poor non-conference showing. They were 9-3, but faced only two teams in the top 125 of the KenPom rankings. They went 1-1 in those contests (beating Penn State and losing to Iowa), but dropped two games to awful opponents. Oddly, the committee never forgave them for those mishaps.

The Tigers went 10-1 to open ACC play before hitting a 1-4 skid. They finished with a 4-2 stretch that put them back on the bubble. Both losses came to Virginia. Their 14-6 regular season record in ACC play set a school record for ACC wins (they previously played fewer ACC games).

Despite the strong finish and overall record, the NCAA committee chose NC State, Pittsburgh, Nevada, and Arizona State over the Tigers for at-large bids. NC State had Clemson’s exact 23-10 record, but did it against a tougher ACC schedule that included Duke, North Carolina, and Miami twice. On the flip side they lost handily to Clemson in three head-to-head contests — one in Clemson, one in Raleigh, and one in Greensboro. NC State finished below Clemson in the ACC standings. Pittsburgh finished one game worse than Clemson and NC State at 22-11 record, and lost to Clemson in Pittsburgh, but had a much tougher non-conference schedule. The Panthers finished below Clemson in the NET rankings.

Nevada finished the season at 22-10 with a 12-6 record in Mountain West play. The committee was so unimpressed with the ACC they chose the similar Mountain West resume over Clemson — a bold commentary on their opinion of the ACC. Finally, Arizona State may be among the most absurd to make it over Clemson. They finished 22-12, a game-and-a-half worse than Clemson. They boast solid wins over Creighton, USC, and Arizona, but were just 11-9 in Pac-12 play. They are below Clemson in the NET rankings. Again, this is a major commentary on the committees opinion of the ACC. Hopefully, the ACC can once again make some runs in the tournament and make the committee look foolish.

Clemson can make them look foolish too — by winning the NIT. The Tigers are a No. 1 seed in the NIT which has moved its Final Four to Las Vegas after a long stretch in the storied Madison Square Garden (they will play in Indianapolis next season).

The toughest teams in the field include Oklahoma State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, and Michigan. Rutgers, a No. 1 seed, already lost to Hofstra in the first round.

The Tigers open play with Morehead State. Morehead State won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season to earn an automatic bid to the NIT. They lost their first game in the OVC tournament and didn’t reach the NCAA tournament as a result. They are 21-11, but have lost every game to an opponent ranked in the top 200 by KenPom. The OVC is not a strong basketball conference and they are no exception. KenPom gives Clemson a 92% chance to win this contest.

UAB, who beat Southern Miss on Tuesday, awaits the winner of the Clemson game. They’ll be a much tougher out. They have a 26-9 overall record and are ranked above Clemson in KenPom. They hit the offensive glass very well, ranking 9th nationally, in offensive rebounding percentage. Clemson has been victimized by teams crashing the offensive glass and UAB has have decent size for a mid-major. Michigan or Vanderbilt will be the last hurdle to reach the Final Four in Las Vegas.

While a trip to the NIT is awfully disappointing after sitting atop the ACC with a 10-1 record, the Tigers could make a real statement and win their first ever NIT. Vote in the poll below to tell us how you would compare winning the entire NIT tournament to differing levels of first weekend NCAA tournament exits.


Winning the NIT is better than...

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Making the NCAA but losing in the Round of 32
    (3 votes)
  • 11%
    Making the NCAA but losing in the Round of 64
    (6 votes)
  • 17%
    Making the NCAA but losing in a play-in/"first four" game
    (9 votes)
  • 65%
    All of these are better than the NIT
    (34 votes)
52 votes total Vote Now