COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Clemson celebrates a return to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers receive a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and face Rutgers in the first round.
“This is a great reward for our players, for all their hard work, their togetherness, and performance,” said head coach Brad Brownell. “We had a really good season. I think we were rewarded with a good seed and have a very good opponent.”
“We stayed together,” added senior guard Clyde Trapp. “Coming into this year, everybody knew it was going to be a challenging year with COVID and all the pauses. It shows our will to win and how we stayed together through this tough season.”
Clemson will make its 13th overall appearance in the Big Dance. Their combined record is 11-12 overall.
For head coach Brad Brownell, this marks the third time he has guided the Tigers to the tournament in eleven seasons. In 2011 they fell in the second round. Their last appearance came in 2018, which featured a fantastic run to the Sweet 16 in Omaha, where they eventually lost to Kansas.
A return to the tournament means a great deal for Clemson’s senior leaders, Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp. Both were freshmen when the Tigers last danced.
“It’s an honor,” said Simms. “This whole year, we battled all types of adversity. It’s special for me and Clyde to get back here after our freshman year, what we accomplished. We’ve been hungry to get back to this stage.”
Simms hopes to bring the same type of positive energy from the 2018 Sweet 16 run.
“We’re going to try to take some of the things we took from our freshman year, such as bonding with the team and having fun,” said Simms. “Reiterating the message that this is the biggest tournament in the world and that everyone is watching us. So, we have to be comfortable and play our game.”
The NCAA Tournament will take place entirely in Indiana, with the majority of tournament games held in Indianapolis. The atmosphere will undoubtedly be different than it has been in previous tournaments.
“It’s not going to be the same,” mentioned Brownell. “It’s a little bit unfortunate. Staying at a hotel with your fanbase and families, them cheering for you as you go to a game, come home from a win, encourage you, and seeing all the balloons and everything—the atmosphere inside your hotel, and going to practices and shootarounds. The older guys are going to miss it because they know what it was like. The new guys won’t know any different.”
Brownell, an Evansville native, looks forward to returning to his home state and believes it will be an outstanding team experience, even in the bubble.
The Tigers could arrive as soon as Monday. Clemson eyes a deep tournament run.
“We want to win the tournament,” said Trapp. “The guys understand that, and everybody has had a great edge, approach in practice these last two days.”
Clemson has experience against Big Ten opponents this season. The Tigers defeated both Purdue and Maryland. Tests against those two programs provide a small blueprint for what it will be like going up against Rutgers on Friday.
If Clemson should advance, they’ll face the winner of (2)Houston vs. (15)Cleveland State in the Round of 32.