Clemson coach Brad Brownell sat in a meeting with Tigers Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich for more than two hours last March and discussed the future of Clemson’s men’s basketball program and what the Tigers needed to do to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Brownell outlined his vision for leading Clemson to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011.
That vision became a reality Sunday when the NCAA Selection Committee released its 68 teams for the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Clemson is a part of the field and will make its 12th tournament appearance in school history later this week.
The Tigers (23-9) are a No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region and will face No. 12 New Mexico State (28-5) on Friday at approximately 10 p.m. in San Diego. With a win, the Tigers would face the winner of No. 4 Auburn and No. 13 College of Charleston on Sunday.
“Certainly excited about what’s next. Really as much as anything just really proud of our players and what they’ve accomplished this season and obviously what that’s afforded us is more basketball,” Brownell said. “Obviously they’ve won 28 games. That’s hard to do in college basketball with the parity we have. … So we’ll have a challenge. We’re looking forward to it.”
The ACC led all conferences with nine teams in the tournament.
The Tigers finished tied for third place in the ACC with an 11-7 mark. The team advanced to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament this past week before falling to No. 1 Virginia.
Clemson has not advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in more than 20 years, since it lost to Minnesota in the Sweet 16 in 1997.
The only NCAA win for the Tigers during the past two decades came when they played in the First Four in Dayton in 2011 and defeated UAB.
Clemson has never advanced to the Final Four and has not made the Elite 8 since 1980, but Brownell believes his team is capable of performing well in the tournament.
“We obviously feel like we can win games. We’ve felt like that all along,” Brownell said. “When we play well we’re a doggone good team. We’re hard to beat. But every game now in the NCAA Tournament you’re playing someone that’s special. These guys are special. They won their conference, won a lot of big games, extremely talented, athletic and competitive. You’re gonna have to play good basketball to win games now and that’s the way it should be.”
Making Clemson’s run to the tournament even more impressive is the fact that the Tigers did so without Donte Grantham for the final 13 games of the year. Grantham tore his ACL in a victory against Notre Dame in January.
With Grantham out, Marcquise Reed and Gabe DeVoe stepped up.
Reed, who was named second-team All-ACC, averaged 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. DeVoe, a senior, averaged 13 points and five rebounds.
Juniors Elijah Thomas and Shelton Mitchell are also averaging double figures with Mitchell putting up 12 points per game and Thomas averaging 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
DeVoe said that he is looking forward to traveling to San Diego and playing in the Big Dance.
“I honestly wanted to go there over Boise, so I’m much more happy about this place,” DeVoe said. “Just keep preparing like we’ve been doing all year. Just one day, one game at a time. We’ll get in this week, get a game plan together, get ready to go for Friday.”