For Clemson coach Brad Brownell’s team, Selection Sunday proved to be Rejection Sunday.
The Tigers’ season, which seemed to hold such promise just six weeks ago, came to abrupt and unceremonious end Sunday evening when the Tigers failed to receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
No other postseason tournaments were considered, according to an athletic department spokesperson.
Despite a loss to Georgia Tech in their first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Wednesday night, Brownell and the Tigers remained hopeful that a bid to the 32-team NIT would be forthcoming.
“It would mean a lot (to get an NIT bid),” Brownell said following his team’s 88-85 overtime loss to the Yellow Jackets. “I certainly think we’re tournament-worthy. It would be a good thing for this team to get to play more.”
That won’t happen, which seemed almost unfathomable in late January.
Despite some early defeats against lowly-regarded nonconference opponents, the Tigers rebounded in a big way in January, reeling off five consecutive victories in ACC play, including four wins against ranked opponents.
The Tigers would go on to post a 10-8 ACC record – just the fifth time in school history that the Tigers had won 10 or more league games – but the Tigers faltered down the stretch, finishing with a 17-13 overall record.
Clemson’s hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 were dashed by a 7-5 non-conference record, a 2-8 road record and a 3-6 mark over the last month of the season. An RPI of 131 didn’t help, either.
Then came the shunning Sunday night from the NIT, which would qualify as at least a mild surprise.
Clemson has made 15 NIT appearances in the NIT – more than any ACC team – and has advanced to the event’s semifinal round at New York City’s Madison Square Garden three times, most recently in 2014, and lost twice in the championship game.
But it didn’t help the Tigers’ cause that this year’s NIT bracket is the strongest in recent memory. There were 18 teams who won regular-season conference titles but failed to win their conference tournaments and fell short of at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Those teams received automatic berths into the NIT, leaving precious few at-large slots available.
Three other ACC teams did make the field, and each had better overall records and higher RPIs than Clemson – Florida State (19-13), Georgia Tech (19-14) and Virginia Tech (19-14).
Davidson (20-12) at Florida State (19-13), 7 p.m.
High Point (21-10) at South Carolina (24-8), 7 p.m.
Alabama (18-14) at Creighton (18-14) 9 p.m.
Long Beach State (20-14) at Washington (18-14), 9 p.m.
Florida (19-14) at North Florida (22-11), 9 p.m.
Texas Southern (18-14) at Valparaiso (26-6), 9:15 p.m.
IPFW (24-9) at San Diego State (25-9), 10 p.m.
New Mexico State (23-10) at Saint Mary's (Cal) (27-5), 11 p.m.
Wagner (22-10) at St. Bonaventure (22-8), 7 p.m.
Belmont (20-11) at Georgia (19-13), 7 p.m.
Akron (26-8) at Ohio State (20-13), 7 p.m.
Bucknell (17-13) at Monmouth (27-7), 7:30 p.m.
Princeton (22-8) at Virginia Tech (19-13), 8 p.m.
Hofstra (24-9) at George Washington (23-10), 8 p.m.
Houston (22-9) at Georgia Tech (19-14), 9 p.m.
UAB (26-6) at BYU (23-10), 10 p.m.