Ready or not

CLEMSON - Brad Brownell is venturing into unfamiliar territory. With at least one more game left in his fourth season as Clemson's head coach, he's probably OK with it.

The outside world will have high expectations for a Clemson basketball team when Brownell begins year in Tigertown. It's been a while since he's had a team that others genuinely perceived as March contenders, and that squad was bequeathed to him by Oliver Purnell after he bolted for DePaul.

But there is still more room to raise the bar for the 2014-15 season.

After packing the house for consecutive NIT games, someone needs to give the folks over at CBS a holler. There is no hot seat in Littlejohn Coliseum, only a hot basketball team that's won three games in a row and bound for Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals.

"I'm very happy, because I know how hard we've all worked," Brownell said. "We've put a lot of time. This team started back in August, July really, when we started our preparation for Italy.

"We've had to overcome some adversity of our own. These kids have competed, listened, been coachable and done everything we've asked them to do, and listened to the right people, right voices, the voices in our locker room.

"We've just believed in each other. We've gotten better as a team through the course of a season. You want to see young people rewarded for doing things the right way, working hard and playing together and being unselfish."

A trip to The Big Dance was the goal Brownell & Co. set before this season, but they'll gladly accept this trip to the Big Apple. After all, it's the last full week in March, and they're still playing ball.

"Our guys have responded very well. We practiced well. We've approached it the right way," Brownell said. "We've had to beat some good teams, so it's been very rewarding, and certainly it's been fun for us to interact with our fans the way we have, especially the last couple of games, to see that kind of positive support."

That hasn't been lost on K.J. McDaniels and Damarcus Harrison, both of whom scored 16 points in Clemson's New York clinching win over Belmont on Tuesday night.

"It's a great feeling," McDaniels said. "I'm proud of my teammates, proud of the coaches, proud of our fans. We're going to go up there and try to get the title."

Before Clemson opened NIT play against Georgia State, Harrison was the only player on the Tiger roster to appear in a postseason tournament game.

"I think we're living the dream this year for the Clemson Tigers," he said, "Because, last year, we struggled. This season, it just shows how hard we've worked in the offseason, and how much our fans appreciate us this year with the support and everything.

"We're just out here playing for them and playing for the university. It just feels good to keep playing."
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