Clemson is excited about its NIT opportunity, as they should be. With the exception of Damarcus Harrison, no player on the team that was picked to finish this season just above the ACC cellar had played in a postseason game before Tuesday night.
After rolling past Georgia State with a convincing 78-66 win, Brad Brownell and his team will find out who their round-two opponent is on Wednesday night.
This much is certain: Clemson will play the game at Littlejohn Coliseum.
No. 2 seed Illinois is playing all of its NIT games away from home because of renovations to their arena. They'll play at the 7th-seeded Boston University on Wednesday. The winner gets to play at Clemson on a date that hasn't been determined.
The winner of Clemson's second-round game will play the winner of Robert Morris and Belmont, both of whom picked up Tuesday night road wins. Robert Morris won at top-seeded St. John's and Belmont knocked off 4th-seeded Green Bay.
Just as long as the Tigers are playing, the path to Madison Square Garden goes through Clemson.
"You'd rather play here than travel," Brownell said, after Tuesday night's game. "But whoever we play, we're going to play a good team, whether it's Boston U or Illinois.
"Illinois is playing great down the stretch. They kind of had a lull there in the middle of the year. John [Groce] does a great job with that team. BU won their league. They've got 24 wins, or whatever it is, got upset in their tournament, so they've got kids that are used to winning and [are] talented."
To make that road to The Big Apple detour through Tigertown, Clemson needs to win two more games, neither of which are guaranteed.
"These tournaments, you're going to play good teams," Brownell said. "That's what's exciting about it, is challenging yourself against good teams."
Harrison, who's ready to keep the push for New York alive, finished second among Tiger scorers with 17 points against Georgia State.
"For this team, last year, we didn't get into postseason play," he said. "And, just for us, this is our first-year playing in postseason, so a lot of our guys are excited to play.
"That was our big thing -- just come out and have fun tonight, be loose and have fun, because it's postseason, we have extra games. That was our big thing tonight."
Conference Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-ACC selection K.J. McDaniels sure looked like he was having a blast. McDaniels finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and no turnovers.
"We knew that we had to go out there and just fight, prove that we wanted to be in it and try to get an NIT [win]," he said.
Full speed ahead
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