Monte Lee was asked on Monday if his Clemson baseball team deserves a national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, and the Tigers coach made his position clear.
“We tied for the lead in the ACC in regular season wins with 22. We were 43-13, which was the best in all Power Five schools in the country,” Lee said. “There’s 295 Division I schools. Tennessee Tech won more games than us, and nobody else. There’s no Power Five school in the country that won more regular-season games than Clemson. If you value what a team does in the regular season, then we most certainly should be a national seed.”
While Lee believes that Clemson has already done enough to lock up a national seed, the NCAA selection committee might not feel the same.
The Tigers are No. 11 in the RPI entering this week’s ACC tournament in Durham, N.C., and their strength of schedule is No. 30.
D1Baseball released its latest projections for the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, and the site has the Tigers as the No. 9 overall seed, hosting a regional, but missing out on a national seed.
“They’ve got some good things going for them, no doubt; they’re right on the edge. Problem is, despite all those wins, they’re still just 11th in the RPI and 3-7 vs. top 25 and a modest 13-9 vs. top 50,” D1Baseball said in a tweet. “All the other candidates trump them in RPI, and most have better tier records.”
D1Baseball has Florida, Stanford, Oregon State, Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas Tech as national seeds. Those schools are each in the top nine in the RPI.
The top eight seeds have an opportunity to host a regional the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament before hosting a Super Regional if they advance.
No matter where Clemson stands, the Tigers have an opportunity to improve their resume this week.
Clemson opens ACC tournament play Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Notre Dame, before facing Miami on Thursday at 7 p.m. Notre Dame and Miami played Tuesday, and the Tigers, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, can advance to the semifinals by beating the winner of Notre Dame and Miami.
Clemson enters the ACC tournament having won its past six games and nine of the past 10.
“We’ve got a lot of good vibes going on in the program right now and with the team this year … But momentum is always going to be dictated by your starting pitcher,” Lee said. “So we’ve got to get off to good starts on the mound every game. We’ve got to swing the bats well. We’ve got to have a certain level of heightened awareness and a sense of urgency.”
The Tigers will have Friday-night starter Jacob Hennessy available this week after he missed last weekend’s series against Pittsburgh with soreness in his arm. Hennessy will be on a limited pitch count, and Lee is unsure if he will be used as a starter or a reliever.
The Tigers were waiting to find out the result of Tuesday’s game before announcing a starter for their ACC tournament opener.
“We’re going to consider everything. We’re going to do everything we can to scout Notre Dame and figure out what we feel like is the best matchup against Notre Dame,” Lee said. “We’re also going to look at it from the standpoint of what is best for us to win the tournament. When you take those two things into consideration, then we will make a decision.”
Notre Dame has an RPI of 94, while Miami’s is 63.
If Clemson advances to the semifinals of the ACC tournament and chalk holds, the Tigers would face No. 3 seed N.C State in the semifinals and No. 1 seed North Carolina or No. 4 seed Duke in the finals.
N.C. State has an RPI of 15, while UNC is No. 6 and Duke is 17. If the Tigers take care of business and win the ACC tournament, as they did two years ago in Durham, they will almost assuredly clinch a national seed.
“Our guys who were there two years ago, obviously, can draw on that experience in a very positive way from a confidence standpoint, that we have played well there in the past, but I think this year is just a different team and a different year,” Lee said. “If we continue to pitch the way that we’ve been pitching and we play defense the way we’ve been playing defense, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win against anybody.”
ACC baseball tournament
Durham (N.C.) Bulls Athletic Park
Pool A: North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh
Pool B: Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame
Pool C: N.C. State, Florida State, Virginia
Pool D: Duke, Louisville, Wake Forest
Unless noted, all games on RSN (regional sports networks) and can be streamed via the WatchESPN app
Tuesday, May 22
No. 12 Pitt vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech, 11 a.m.
No. 10 Virginia vs. No. 6 Florida State, 3 p.m.
No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Miami, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 23
No. 9 Wake Forest vs. No. 5 Louisville, 11 a.m.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 11 Notre Dame, 3 p.m.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Pitt, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 24
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 9 Wake Forest, 11 a.m.
No. 3 NC State vs. No. 10 Virginia, 3 p.m.
No. 7 Miami vs. No. 2 Clemson, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 25
No. 5 Louisville vs. No. 4 Duke, 11 a.m.
No. 8 Georgia Tech vs. No. 1 North Carolina 3 p.m.
No. 6 Florida State vs. No. 3 NC State, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 26
Pool A Winner vs. Pool D Winner, 1 p.m.
Pool B Winner vs. Pool C Winner, 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 27
ACC Championship, Noon (ESPN2)