Comfortably confident

TAMPA - Clemson's road to the Final Four started in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday night and it remains right on schedule with a stop in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday.

WHAT: Clemson vs. West Virginia
WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum (20,314) – Tampa, Fla.
WHEN: Thursday, Mar. 17 (12:15 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson +2

Getting from point A to point B has been a little crazy, though.

"The last 18 hours have been pretty, I guess, hectic," said Demontez Stitt. "Played and right after the game we flew out, came straight down here."

The Tigers ride high into the St. Pete Times Forum after winning 70-52 over UAB in the First Round. The win has placed Clemson the No. 12 seed in the East Regional in Thursday afternoon matchup with No. 5 seed West Virginia, a Final Four team from a year ago.

Tanner Smith, who scored 10 points on Tuesday night, said the Tigers like their chances at moving on to the next round, where they would play the winner of the Kentucky/Princeton game.

"We've got those first game jitters out of the way. We're already kind of on the tournament grind. We're already going," he said. "Some teams are kind of waiting to get going. We're already in the tournament mindset."

Clemson didn't arrive to Tampa until after 4 a.m. on Wednesday. The team didn't check-in to the hotel until close to 5. Players were allowed to sleep in and encouraged to nap later in the day.

Thursday's game will be the fifth meeting between Clemson and West Virginia. The Mountaineers hold a 3-1 lead in the series that dates back to the 1951-52 season.
"We know what we have to do," said Jerai Grant, who scored a career-high 22 points against UAB. "We already went over a lot of scouting reports on West Virginia and their personnel. From here on out, it's just all about focus and rest."

And it's an awful stiff challenge.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has won almost 700 games during his career. During his time in Morgantown, Huggins has won 100 games and accumulated a .709 winning percentage.

This week, he's had the unique opportunity of preparing for two teams, because of the tournament's new format. Oftentimes before the First Round game on Tuesday night, the fifth-year coach was left wondering what exactly to do.

"We tried to prepare for both teams as best we could, but it's a different kind of preparation," Huggins said. "I don't have the answer. I don't know what to do. When we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. I thought were we going to confuse them, trying to do two people, instead of one. Or do you don't do any, and just try to concentrate on your own stuff? I probably think too much, though."

Senior guard Casey Mitchell, West Virginia's leading scorer (14.1), has started only 17 of the 28 games he's player in this season. The Mountaineers also get a steady flow of points from junior forward Kevin Jones (13.1), junior guard Darryl Bryant (10.9) and senior forward John Flowers (9.6). Flowers is also second among all Big East players with 74 blocked shots.

Huggins said all four, plus sophomore forward Deniz Kilicli, have served as the go-to scorer at some point during the season.

"Hopefully, it makes it a little bit harder to scout," Huggins said. "At the same time, you kind of want to know who everybody has confidence. I think, what it is, is whoever's playing well that day."

On Sunday, Clemson associate head coach Rick Ray was handed control of scouting the Mountaineers. But it wasn't until early Wednesday morning that Brownell and the rest of the team could focus solely on West Virginia.

"They have the qualities of their coach," Brownell said, "very, very tough, very physical, strong will to win, competitive…he always makes those guys play unbelievably hard and they rebound exceptionally well.

"They defend you on every possession. It's hard to get easy baskets."

It's the same formula that Brownell has used in his first-year as Clemson head coach. So far, the mentality has worked just fine for the Tigers.

"They look to really extend the pressure at the half court," Mazzulla said. "And from the film and from the UAB game last night, they really had UAB run their offense at half court. That's something. We have to handle that pressure. We don't want them to push us to half court."

West Virginia (20-11)
G #21 Joe Mazzulla (6-2, 200) - 7.2 PPG, 3.9 APG
G #25 Darryl Bryant (6-2, 195) - 10.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG
F #41 John Flowers (6-7, 215) - 9.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG
F #2 Cam Thoroughman (6-7, 235) - 2.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG
F #5 Kevin Jones (6-8, 260) - 13.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Clemson (22-11)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 180) - 14.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG
G #11 Andre Young (5-9, 170) - 10.8 PPG, 3.1 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 210) - 7.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG
F #45 Jerai Grant (6-8, 230) - 12.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG
F #31 Devin Booker (6-8, 245) - 8 PPG, 5.4 RPG Top Stories