Clemson deals with life in the ‘Big Dance’ bubble

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell coaches against Virginia in the first-half in Clemson, S.C. on...
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell coaches against Virginia in the first-half in Clemson, S.C. on Saturday, January 16, 2021.((Bart Boatwright/SIDELINE CAROLINA))
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Clemson men’s basketball team is in Indianapolis preparing for their first-round NCAA tournament game. It’ll be Friday night at 9:20 against Rutgers.

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell knew this trip to the Big Dance would be different.

The entire men’s tournament is taking place in the Hoosier State because of the pandemic. Since they arrived in Indianapolis, the Tigers have spent most of the time in their hotel rooms quarantining.

“It’s strange,” Brownell said. “We got here Monday afternoon, and we’re basically in quarantine for the better part of 28 hours. They brought meals to you and all that kind of stuff. But, you don’t really leave your room.

“It’s hard for everybody being cooped up in a hotel up until Friday,” Bronwell added. “Then we got the last game of the day, which makes it even more challenging for everybody.”

Brownell’s already strategizing how to handle the late tip-time on Friday to ensure his team plays to its potential.

“Guys are going to be excited to play; it’s the NCAA Tournament,” Brownell emphasized. “Managing the energy level all day is the most important thing. You could very easily see one of the teams, guys exhausted by the first TV timeout, or first two or three minutes because you’re so anxious you got all that nervous energy.”

Brownell knows the value of managing that well before the game gets underway.

“I think trying to get the guys to relax and enjoy the moment,” said Brownell. “But understand the best way to play is by mentally being prepared and to slow yourself down a little bit. I think we all get excited, nervous, and anxious we play a little too quickly. A lot of times, that’s when bad things happen.”

“It’s definitely tough to keep your energy at the same peak that it will be,” added Clemson senior forward Aamir Simms. “You got to find ways. As long as you’re excited to play, that will take care of itself. Being in the Big Dance, that will be enough right there.”

“Being in the game itself will have everyone pumped and ready to play,” Simms added. “Some people will definitely be exhausted, probably myself included, just being excited to be out there and play, knowing the magnitude of the situation we’re in. After a couple of minutes, it will settle down, the nature of the game.”

The last time Clemson appeared in the tournament was in 2018. The Tigers made it to the Sweet 16.

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