Tigers Draw Villanova in First Round

CHARLOTTE – It's the Tigers versus the Wildcats in the Sunshine State. Clemson's quest for reaching its goal of a national championship will start in Tampa against Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers (23-8) are the fifth seed in the Midwest Bracket, where they will face No. 12 Villanova (20-12) on Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum. The times will be announced at a later in the week.

"Just hearing your name called on Selection Sunday is a dream come true," senior guard Cliff Hammonds said. "We have the type of team that can make a run in this tournament. We've been playing well."

The announcement of Clemson's seeding comes just hours after it lost a hard-fought game to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament Championship Game. The Tar Heels (32-2) are the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said the NCAA selection is a bittersweet moment.

"Absolutely," he said. "We were terribly disappointed at the end of the game today. The bottom line is we didn't win that championship. But, we're playing at a high level. We set our goal to win a national championship, and now we have an opportunity to start on that quest this Friday."

The St. Pete Times Forum is the same place where the Tigers lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament last year.

Purnell said having played there in the past won't be an advantage for Clemson.

"I think the advantage is that it's not too terribly far away," he said. "I think any time you go East to West, for example, that's a bit of a hardship. But this is certainly a good location."

Privately, some members of the team thought a fifth seed was rather low and that the Tigers should have gotten a fourth seed. But Purnell doesn't have a big problem with it.

"Seeding definitely mattered because we've had a really good year," he said. "We feel like we've got a really good basketball team and deserved a high seed, based on our body of work for the entire year. But also with the way we've played down the stretch. Five is a pretty good seed."

Should Clemson win, it will face the winner between No. 4 Vanderbilt (26-7) and No. 13 Sienna (22-12).

A win there would put the Tigers into the Sweet 16, where they would likely face No. 1 Kansas (29-3). The other top seeds in the bracket include No. 2 Georgetown (27-5), No. 3 Wisconsin (28-4) and No. 6 Southern Cal (21-11).

But the team is only focused on one team and that's Villanova.

"I'm embracing the chance to play against a Big East team," Hammonds said. "I'm ready for the challenge and I think our team is ready for the challenge."

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