Although Clemson was ranked as high as No. 19 in the AP Top 25 poll earlier this season, a trip to the NCAA Tournament was not in the cards for the Tigers. Read more: Top 25 roundup: Purdue escapes Penn State for Big Ten title
Clemson will instead have an opportunity to make noise in the NIT, where it will play as a No. 1 seed along with Oklahoma State, Oregon and Rutgers. The Tigers (23-10) lost six of their final 11 games, but coach Brad Brownell still believed his team was worthy of getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Eye test — just our team playing right now — I mean, Hunter Thompson and PJ Hall are voted as two of the top 12 or 13 players in the (Atlantic Coast Conference). We have the second-best defense, the fifth-best offense. We won 14 ACC games,” Brownell said ahead of Selection Sunday.
“I just think that if you watch our team play and have seen us throughout the year, we have been one of the top teams in the country to be in this tournament.”
But Brownell’s words fell on deaf ears, and now Clemson is set to face Morehead State (21-11) on Wednesday in the first round of the NIT.
Oklahoma State (18-15), which is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, will play Youngstown State (24-9) in its first-round matchup on Wednesday. Rutgers (19-14) will take on Hofstra (24-9) on Tuesday, and the Ducks (19-14) will attempt to fend off UC Irvine (23-11) on Wednesday.
“We’re excited about the field that we were able to put together,” said Wren Baker, who serves as the chair of the NIT committee. “There are going to be some great early-round matchups, and I think our semifinal teams are going to have a great experience in Las Vegas.”
As one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina would have been a top-seeded team, but the Tar Heels declined an invitation to participate in the NIT.
“All season, our focus and goal have been on being the best team we can possibly become and reaching our full potential to give us another opportunity to compete, play for and win an NCAA championship,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said in a statement.
“Although we no longer have that opportunity and this season wasn’t what we had hoped for, I want to thank our players and staff for their hard work and love for Carolina Basketball.
“Many factors go into postseason play, and we believe now is the time to focus on moving ahead, preparing for next season and the opportunity to again compete for ACC and NCAA championships.”
Sam Houston (25-7), Liberty (26-8), Colorado (17-16) and Michigan (17-15) enter the field as No. 2 seeds.
Wisconsin will also be participating in the NIT as a No. 3 seed, and the Badgers will be looking to somewhat make up for a less-than-impressive season that featured them getting bounced from the Big Ten tournament in the first round.
Wisconsin (17-14) had made the NCAA Tournament in 23 of the past 24 seasons, but has recorded its fewest wins since the 2017-18 season.
The NIT semifinals are set for March 28, with the championship game to be played two days later in Las Vegas.
–Field Level Media