Clemson isn’t Looking for Sympathy, It Just Wants In

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Hunter Tyson does not want anyone in college basketball to feel sorry for him or the Clemson men’s basketball team.

“I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just looking for recognition of what we’ve earned,” the First-Team All-ACC Forward said. “Like Coach (Brad Brownell) said, if you really want the best 68 teams, we’re one of them. And we’ll have our fingers crossed on Sunday, but I truly believe we should get in.”

The Tigers (23-10, 14-6 ACC) have to wait for more than a day to see if their season will continue in the NCAA Tournament or if they have to accept a consolation prize and play in the NIT. Following Friday’s 76-56 loss to No. 2 seed Virginia in the ACC Tournament, they can no longer prove to the selection committee that they belong in the Big Dance.

Their body of work is done. It is now up to the selection committee to decide, and they will announce their decision at 6 p.m. Sunday on CBS.

“The games we got to play, we were .500 or better in those Quad 1 games,” Brownell said. “There are teams that they have in the tournament ahead of us, some in our league, that we’ve beaten. Some multiple times. Others at their place. In other leagues we’ve beaten teams.

“So, I think just for those reasons, if you’re truly looking for the 68 best teams, we’re one of the 68 best teams. Finishing third in this league, too, by the way.”

The teams Clemson has beaten that some bracketologiest are saying are in the NCAA Tournament are NC State, Pittsburgh, Penn State and Duke. The Tigers are a combined 6-0 against those teams, including 3-0 against NC State, a squad it knocked off by 25 points on the road and 26 points in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament this past Thursday night.

Clemson also beat Pitt on the road and rallied to beat Penn State in double overtime as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

“If you look at some of the games we played this year, how we played on the road, how we played with our backs on the ropes late in games and finished, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’re one of the best teams in the country and belong in the tournament,” forward PJ Hall said. “I say that wholeheartedly, and there’s nothing more to it.”

But experts like ESPN’s Joe Lunardi say it is not who Clemson has defeated or lost to that hurts the Tigers’ chances, but instead it is Clemson’s strength of schedule, which is ranked in the 300s. He said on ESPN’s College GameDay pregame show Friday that the Tigers’ strength of schedule goes against what the selection committee has done in the past.

“I’m not sure I’d want to bet a mortgage payment on the committee going against a trend they have consistently upheld,” he said.

Clemson hopes the selection committee looks past all the metrics and actually pays attention to its play on the basketball court. Play that has led the program to one the most successful seasons in its history to this point.

“I believe our body of work has earned us a spot in the tournament,” Tyson said. “Obviously, I understand we have some tough losses, but at the end of the day, we should be in the tournament.”

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