Tanner Smith peered up at the Phillips Arena ceiling, reflecting on the moment, wading in emotion as he walked off the court for perhaps the final time as a college basketball player Thursday night.
Clemson’s NCAA tournament hopes were extinguished after the Tigers lost to Virginia Tech, 68-63, in the opening round of the ACC tournament. Clemson will not be considered for an NCAA at-large bid due to its RPI rating (150th) and weak non-conference resume (rated 288th). The Tigers won’t play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, ending a string of four straight NCAA appearances. Clemson also is not projected to be invited to the NIT, according to NITology.com.
If Clemson (16-15) desires to play in the postseason, it likely will have to settle for either the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament. Clemson coach Brad Brownell said after the loss he had not made a decision regarding invitations to the lower-tier tournaments.
“I haven’t thought a lot about that yet,” Brownell said. “We have to go back and digest some things. I am going to go back and talk to our staff. We have squeezed a lot of water out of a turnip this year. This is really disheartening. I thought we would come here and do a little bit better, but we didn’t get it done.
“It’s a hard decision because of our seniors. Our seniors, really, are not doing well right now. They’re used to going to postseason, going to the big tournament.”
Clemson played in the NIT in three straight postseasons from 2005 through 2007 under former coach Oliver Purnell. Clemson has played in a postseason tournament every year since 2004, the last time Clemson finished with a losing record, going 10-18 overall and 3-13 in the ACC.
Smith fought back tears Thursday night as he talked about the possibility that he and fellow seniors Andre Young, Bobo Baciu and Bryan Narcisse might have played their last game together.
“I’ve been blessed,” Smith said. “I’m really going to miss these guys. It’s an honor to play in the ACC and at a school like Clemson.”