The good news is for the sixth-straight year, head coach Oliver Purnell has Clemson in post-season play. In addition, it's only the second time the Tigers have played in the NCAA Tournament for three-straight seasons.
His first trip with Clemson to the tournament (2007-08) ended the Tigers' 10-year hiatus from the dance.
That year, Clemson blew an 18-point first half lead to No. 12 seed Villanova in the first round, falling 75-69. Bad shooting and Terrence Oglesby's infamous elbow a year later saw No. 7 seed Clemson booted by underdog Michigan.
The bad news is Purnell is also still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win as a head coach.
Logically, the next step for Clemson basketball is a given.
"Obviously, a big deal for us is getting past that first round. The last couple of years we haven't done that. We expect, like the last two years, that it's going to be a close game," he said.
"We want to move on. You want that to be the overriding, driving factor, we just want to be motivated and fired up to play."
Winless in his five appearances in the tournament, when asked if there was a monkey on his back, he shrugged off the notion, waiting to give a real answer after a win.
"Let's get it and find out," he said, repeating himself.
It's not like Purnell isn't subtly reminded about before the beginning of every season.
"You certainly set out your goals at the beginning of the year—this one of your goals, to have a chance to compete for the national championship," he said. "And here we go."
Of course, very similar to Clemson's full-court pressure, amped up running game, Missouri also utilizes a high tempo—probably even more so than the Tigers from the ACC.
According to Purnell, the opposing Tigers play with guards that are similar in style to Demontez Stitt.
"They've got a lot of guys like that. We're more, throw it into Trevor and kind of play off of him," Purnell said. "If they double, we'll spot up and take our drives off of that, with the exception of Demontez, who we want to get the ball to and slash."
Missouri doesn't put as much emphasis on its post play at either end, he said.
"They don't care about rebounding as much as we do because a rebound is a possession. They turn teams over more than any other team in the country. Every time they turn a team over, that's a possession for you. They steal the ball more than any team in the country. They rely on getting the ball that way. We rely on getting the ball that way, but we rely more on rebounding."
Purnell believes that Clemson holds the advantage in the low post. Making sure the ball gets down low to Trevor Booker, Jerai Grant and Devin Booker is easier said than done.
"In this kind of game, it's hard to get the ball in the low post. What they do, when the ball goes into the low post, they'll send two or three guys there, because we do have an advantage," Purnell said.
The next step? Advancing
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