Tigers not worried about outside voices as they prepare for regional

CLEMSON—Sunday night the Clemson Tigers (39-19) learned that they had been selected as a host site for the regional round of the NCAA Tournament, and Monday they learned the three other teams who would be joining the Tigers at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Joining the Tigers as participants in the Clemson regional are: No. 2 seed Vanderbilt (33-22-1)—led by former Clemson assistant coach Tim Corbin– out of the SEC, No. 3 seed St. Johns (42-11) out of the Big East and No. 4 seed UNC-Greensboro (35-22) out of the Southern Conference.

“Very excited. Very excited for our players and for our program and for our fans here in Clemson to be able to bring a regional to Clemson in back-to-back years is special,” head coach Monte Lee said. “It’s great for our fanbase, and it’s great for our players. Obviously, we always love playing at home. So were just really excited and grateful for the opportunity to be able to host a regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium this weekend.”

However, what was supposed to be a celebratory day for the Tigers– less than 24 hours after receiving word that they were selected as a host site– quickly turned to silence, as the crew of ESPN called the Tigers receiving a regional big “ridiculous”.

But for head coach Monte Lee, he is not wasting any of his energy worrying about what the “experts” think, because, whether they agree or not, the Tigers are hosting a regional.

“I don’t make anything of it. To be honest, everybody has their own opinions and that’s OK. It doesn’t bother me at all,” Lee said. “What I think and what I believe in is never going to come from the outside in. It’s always going to come from the inside out. To me, whatever is being said—it really doesn’t matter.

“The only thing that matters is how we feel, what we think about it and what we’re going to do about it. People can have their opinions, and we respect their opinions. There’s people that do it for a living and some agree, some don’t agree and regardless it doesn’t change a thing. We’re hosting a regional and we’re excited about it.”

The head coach understands the reasoning behind the questions regarding the Tigers earning the right to host a regional, while conference foe Virginia was not rewarded with a host site—after finishing the regular season with 41 wins, compared to the Tigers 39, and finishing the regular season ranked 11th, compared to No. 18 for the Tigers.

But, the Tigers RPI and out of conference strength of schedule was ultimately the deciding factor, as the Tigers finished the season with an RPI of 12, compared to 15 for Virginia, and the Tigers out of conference schedule ranked 67th nationally, compared to 235 for Virginia.

“Everybody talks about, ‘Are you surprised that you got to host?’. Listen, since 2010, 52 out of 52 teams from the ACC and the SEC that had an RPI of 12 or better hosted,” Lee said. “What else can you say? If strength of schedule and the quality of your wins over the course of a season matter, Clemson was No. 12 in the RPI.

“So, we were in the same category as many, many, many other teams that fit the same resume that deserve the opportunity to host. The selection committee looked at that and decided that we deserved to host.”

The Clemson regional will get underway Friday at noon, as No. 2 seed Vanderbilt will take on No. 3 seed St. Johns (SEC Network). The No. 1 seed Clemson will open play Friday at 7 p.m. against No. 4 seeded UNC-Greensboro (ESPN3).

Notes:

– This season marks Clemson’s 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance, fifth most in the nation, and 30th in the last 31 years.
– It is the 15th time since 1980 that Clemson hosts a regional and second year in a row.
– The Tigers will make their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in a row

Tickets:

– All-games ticket – $60 (Games 1-6 and a potential Game 7)
– Single-game adult ticket – $15
– Single-game youth ticket – $10
– Single-game general admission ticket – $10 (only available if all reserved seats sell out)

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