Clemson is loving the NIT. After finishing the regular season 19-11 and losing to Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, the Tigers missed out on an invite to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they settled for a trip to the National Invitational Tournament.
Because of construction to 2-seed Illinois’ home court, Clemson has had the fortune of hosting the first three rounds – wins over Georgia State, Illinois and Belmont – before heading to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four where they will face the winner of tonight’s SMU – Cal game.
So why are they so excited? Once you’re in the NIT bracket, you have two choices – win and embrace it or lose and pretend it didn’t matter at all. Clemson has decided to win. That’s not something Clemson is used to. They play in the shadow of the ACC’s basketball schools with Louisville set to join the conference in a few months. They have just 11 NCAA Tournament invites in the school’s history.
So the school has embraced this year’s team of all-underclassmen. With the possible exception of leading scorer, junior K.J. McDaniels, Clemson should return their entire roster next season. When the game against Belmont ended, the crowd stormed the court. In the locker room, the team danced. Clemson uploaded videos of both because it turns out winning is fun – even if it is in the NIT.