NCAA Play-in Game?

TAMPA, Fla. – Depending on which so-called basketball expert you listen to, Clemson either needs one or two wins in the ACC Tournament to get an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. Some even believe the Tigers already have their tickets punched. CUTigers.com reports live from Tampa, Fla., site of this year's ACC Tournament, in this report!

Oddly enough, Clemson's first-round opponent, Florida State, is in the exact same position, which have many believing Thursday's noon game is an NCAA Tournament play-in game.

"We know that Florida State is going to be one of the games that determines whether or not we get into the tournament," Tigers senior point guard Vernon Hamilton said. "We know that if we don't be Florida State that it's a slim chance that we're going to get in there."

Clemson (21-9, 7-9 ACC) is currently No. 36 in the latest Ratings Point Index (RPI) and has six wins over teams that are ranked 50th or better, which is more than 13 teams ranked in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

The Seminoles (19-11, 7-9 ACC) are No. 47 in the RPI, but have the 24th hardest schedule in the nation and have wins over Florida and Duke.

Florida State finds itself in the exact same position it was in last year, needing to win a conference tournament game to get into the big tournament. After losing to Wake Forest last season in the opening round, the Seminoles were left out, despite having a 9-7 conference record.

"I was extremely disappointed we didn't get in last year," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It's just one of those things where I think it makes good conversation for people who are not necessarily in the trenches. We felt we were in pretty good position."

When asked if he felt as though the NCAA Tournament committee owed him and his program one for leaving them out last season, Hamilton paused before answering – sort of.

"Not being a smarty pants, but next question," he said while laughing.

Considering the ACC is rated as the toughest overall conference, which as nine teams with RPIs of 50 or better, there are those that think Clemson and Florida State each deserve an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of Thursday's outcome.

And just to make sure the selection committee is fully aware of the vast statistical information supporting the Tigers' claim to an at-large berth regardless of the outcome, Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret sent every one of those number-crunching items to the fine folks located in Indianapolis, home of the NCAA.

"I think it's quite a tribute to our schools and our coaches and our players to be at this point and have nine schools that deserve legitimate consideration," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "That's a tough job the committee has and I very much respect what they do. But I just hope that they will appropriately recognize the strength of our league this year and the competitiveness of it."

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