Whirlwind Journey

TAMPA, Fla. -- Clemson head coach Brad Brownell reckoned his team did not get to its hotel here and truly get settled in until almost 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday. That was about five hours after the Tigers won a First Four match-up with UAB and 31 hours before it would face West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

But if the quick turnaround -- which included a flight from Dayton, Ohio to sunny Florida -- was bothering Brownell and his first Clemson team, it didn't show when the Tigers answered a seemingly endless series of questions about their whirlwind journey in the earliest stages of the Big Dance.

"The last 18 hours have been pretty, I guess, hectic," said CU guard Demontez Stitt. "[We] played and right after the game, we flew out, came straight down here. We got a lot of rest [Wednesday], got to sleep in a little bit since we didn't really get in until early this morning, and I think we're feeling alright, man."

Indeed, Brownell said he allowed his players to sleep in until around noon. But that gave the Clemson players (and, truly, the coaches) only about 24 hours to prepare for their game against the Mountaineers.

It is, by far, the cruelest of turnarounds for any of the teams that were relegated to the First Four, as the Tigers played in the second of two games in Dayton on Tuesday night -- a game that, because of an overtime period in the game that immediately preceded it, began even later than its scheduled 9:00 p.m. tip-off time.

They will now be part of the very first game of Thursday's 16 second round match-ups, as CBS picked the game for a 12:15 p.m. start on Sunday night, just after the brackets were unveiled.

That is a complicating factor for Clemson (22-11) on two fronts.

First, there is the obvious question of fatigue -- a concern that could be amplified by the style of play Brownell has brought to the Tigers' program in his first year on the job.

CU relies on an in-your-face defense to slow down opposing offenses and get easy baskets of its own via turnovers. Indeed, in the win over UAB on Tuesday night, Clemson players routinely picked up intense pressure defense as soon as the ball crossed the half-court stripe.

That can lead to a lot of wins. But it is also a physically demanding style of play that can lead to fatigue in the rapid turnarounds that come with play in tournaments -- both at the conference and NCAA level.

"As players, when you go out and you give it your all, when you play hard on the defensive end, you get the results that we get," said Stitt, a senior. "I think it's tough just to go out every day and do that same thing. It takes a lot of mental stability -- you have to be mentally prepared in order to go out there and do the same thing over and over. You have to really be determined to do it. I mean, you can't have any let-ups."

And even if Clemson's players are not tired, they will go into today's game with precious little preparation time spent on the specific things WVU does to its opponents.

Brownell said his players had not seen a single moment of film of the Mountaineers until early Wednesday afternoon, and they certainly had not spent time in practice working on ways to attack West Virginia tactically until then either.

"We had an assistant who has been watching [WVU film] since Selection Sunday and had things prepared," said Brownell, who also took UNC Wilmington and Wright State to the NCAA Tournament.

"I've seen a little bit of them through the course of the season .... but I concentrated on UAB right up until after the [First Four] game. On the flight down, obviously I had a computer to start to watch West Virginia, and I watched it as much as I could until 5:00 a.m."

At that point, Brownell did allow himself some sleep, even if it was only three hours' worth. He woke up at 8:00 ("It wasn't good sleep.") and got back to devouring film of the Mountaineers, a team he said resembles its head coach, Bob Huggins.

"They're very tough, very physical, [have a] strong will to win [and they are] competitive," Brownell said. "Coach Huggins' teams, I've followed them from his time at Cincinnati. He always makes those guys play unbelievably hard, and they rebound exceptionally well. They defend you on every possession. It's hard to get easy baskets."

But Brownell did have a bit of a slip-up, perhaps as a result of the lack of time he had to study West Virginia, calling WVU guard Truck Bryant "Truck Robinson" at one point in his press conference.

That error won't matter in terms of the way the game itself goes. But it's a sign of just how little time he has had to prepare his players to attack the Mountaineers' weaknesses because of Clemson's quick turnaround.

"I think that's where you wish you had one more day, just a day, to kind of refresh and go through things one more time," Brownell admitted. "It's just really quick. And again, it's a team that you haven't played. It's a team you haven't followed. It's a team your players haven't followed.

"Oftentimes when you're playing consecutive days, like in a conference tournament, you've already played [your opponents] and that's going to be your second or third time to play them, so you have an idea [of what they do]. Here, you don't. You've just got to go play."

Indeed, the players seemed ready to roll with the punches, as Stitt and fellow senior Jerai Grant laughed to themselves on a couple of occasions, seemingly bewildered by the endless amount of questions about their unusual journey to this point.

One reporter drew a chuckle by asking for details about exactly when both players hit the bed in their hotel room in Tampa and what time they had to wake up afterward.

And when another seemingly served up a chance to criticize the NCAA or CBS/Turner for forcing the Tigers into the earliest time slot on Thursday, further minimizing their preparation time, Grant didn't take the bait.

"[It was] a little bit surprising," he said. "But at the same time, Coach talks about preparation all the time. No matter what time we're playing, no matter what time of day, we have to accept that challenge and prepare accordingly."


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