CLEMSON — March is a stressful month in the college basketball world. For every team that punches its NCAA Tournament ticket with a spectacular conference tournament run, there's another that came one win, one play — one miracle short.
After years of being either on, or nowhere near, the tournament bubble, Brad Brownell's Clemson squad has all but secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament thanks to a strong non-conference performance and a record-breaking run through its ACC schedule.
The Tigers enter this week's ACC Tournament without the looming pressure of having to win it all to extend their season; it's a peace of mind that Brownell says is well-deserved.
"We’ve kind of known for a while that we’re an NCAA Tournament team, and we’ve earned that," Brownell said. 'Our play in the non-conference was really, really good ...The Florida and Ohio State wins, especially. And because of that, it set us up that if we had some success in our league then we could be in this position and we did right away. We got off to a great start, 6-3 in the first nine, so we put ourselves in that position, and it’s been nice to play the last week and a half without that kind of stress that 25 teams are probably under right now.
"But our guys have earned it and we scheduled appropriately and took care of business. Now it’s just about trying to continue to improve to get better. I think our team needs to get better if we’re going to have any kind of significant success in these next two tournaments. So we’re really pushing to do that and anxious to see how it works out."