Clemson University

Ticket punched: Clemson women’s basketball earns NCAA Tournament bid

Clemson coach Amanda Butler on what it means for her team to reach NCAA Tournament

Tigers earned a No. 9 seed and are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2002
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Tigers earned a No. 9 seed and are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2002

Nearly a year ago Amanda Butler was introduced as Clemson’s new head women’s basketball coach at the Coliseum Club inside Littlejohn Coliseum while surrounded by Clemson players, administrators and fans.

Many of those same people, including Butler, were back at the Coliseum Club on Monday as the Tigers held a watch party for the NCAA Tournament selection show.

Butler said throughout the 2018-19 season that she would love for her players to have the opportunity to experience the NCAA Tournament after going through so many difficult times earlier in their careers.

Butler’s wish is coming true as Clemson has officially earned a spot in March Madness.

The Tigers are a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 8 seed South Dakota in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it was announced Monday evening. The game will be played at 7 p.m. Friday in Starkville, Mississippi. It will be televised on ESPN2.

“Just wow. Just a really exciting day for our program, really exciting day for our seniors, really exciting day for our fans. We’re thrilled to have been selected, to have another opportunity to compete,” Butler said. “This team is really special for a long, long list of reasons, and I know how much they care about each other. I know how much they love playing together. All of that will come out with the way that we compete.”

A trip to the NCAA Tournament seemed like a nearly impossible goal for Clemson entering the season as the Tigers had been at the basement in the ACC for the past several years.

Clemson won five ACC games in the previous four years combined entering the 2018-19 season before going 19-12 (9-7) thus far in Butler’s first year.

If Clemson is able to earn a win on Friday, the Tigers will likely face No. 1 seed Mississippi State in the second round.

“It means a lot. Coach Butler asked us when she first got here, what was our goal for the season? And my answer to her was I wanted to play in the postseason, whether it to be the NCAA Tournament or WNIT, I just wanted to continue to play,” senior guard Danielle Edwards said. “To see our name up there so we get a chance to continue our season now, it just means a lot to me.”

The NCAA women’s bracket was originally supposed to be announced at 7 p.m. Monday on ESPN before the announcement show was moved up to 5 p.m. after the bracket was accidentally leaked early on ESPNU Monday afternoon.

Butler received a call from an assistant coach Monday afternoon letting her know that the bracket had leaked if she wanted to know who the Tigers were facing.

Butler and Clemson’s entire team had seen the bracket by the time the Tigers gathered for the watch party at 7 p.m. Still, there was plenty of excitement around the selection. Butler felt good about Clemson’s chances of getting into the tournament but was still relieved when it became official.

“It’s just kind of crazy. I think there’s obviously a lot of things that they’re trying to figure out how this happened or that happened or whatever, but I told these guys, shoot, it’ll be a great story 10 years from now,” Butler said. “We have this big selection moment and then all of a sudden it’s not quite the traditional unfolding of events. But all we care about is that we’re in and we get another opportunity to play.”

HOW TO WATCH

Who: No. 8 South Dakota vs. No. 9 Clemson

What: NCAA women’s tournament

When: 7 p.m. Friday

TV: ESPN2

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