Clemson University

Clemson earns No. 5 seed, draws Villanova

CHARLOTTE -- Clemson's name had yet to even appear on the screen when Cliff Hammonds leapt to his feet and pumped his fist, giving teammates an idea what the senior guard had gleaned from his position in front of the hotel banquet room's television.

The Tigers already knew they would be in the NCAA tournament.

Nonetheless, just going through the selection process was a moment the seniors would cherish.

"Hearing your name called is a dream come true," Hammonds said.

Clemson (24-9) earned a No. 5 seed in the tourney, drawing No. 12 Villanova (20-12) for its first-round pairing Friday in Tampa, Fla.

The winner advances to a Sunday game against the No. 4 Vanderbilt-No. 13 Siena winner for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Start times will be determined by CBS and announced today.

Clemson's games will be at the St. Pete Times Forum, where it lost its ACC tourney first-round game a year ago.

The Tigers were assigned to the Midwest Regional, so if they survive pod play, they would then travel to Detroit for a potential matchup with No. 1 seed Kansas. Other teams in their bracket include No. 2 Georgetown, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 6 Southern Cal and No. 11 Kansas State.

But first things first; Clemson is making its eighth NCAA tournament appearance -- first since 1998 -- and must beat a Wildcats team that has gone the previous three years.

Coach Oliver Purnell said facing a program with name recognition probably adds little extra because of how well the Tigers have stayed motivated through the course of the year.

"I'd rather be playing sisters of the poor, to be honest with you," Purnell said.

"One thing we said last year around this time was we wouldn't be sitting around asking, selling our body of work. We were going to bust down the door to the NCAA tournament, and these guys did just that."

The Tigers had believed they might have improved from a probable No. 6 seed to as high as a No. 4 in the wake of their ACC tourney run, which included a 86-81 title game loss to North Carolina, the NCAA tourney's top seed, and a 78-74 triumph against No. 2 NCAA seed Duke.

Conversely, Villanova appeared to squeak in after it went 9-9 to finish tied for eighth the Big East.

After suffering damaging January losses to Rutgers, Cincinnati and DePaul, the Wildcats arguably played their way into the NCAA field down the stretch, winning five of their last seven games. Six of their last seven losses were to NCAA tourney qualifiers.

Having defended his share of elite guards in ACC play, Hammonds' next challenge will be 6-foot-2 sophomore Scottie Reynolds, Villanova's leading scorer (15.6 points) and distributor (3.3 assists).

Reynolds, though, was the only player who averaged double figures during Big East play.

The Wildcats have tended to use a four-guard lineup under coach Jay Wright, but they have leaned heavily this year on 6-8 junior forward Dante Cunningham, their second-leading scorer (10.4) and top rebounder (6.5).

Villanova is 3-0 all-time against Clemson, but the teams have not played since the 1989-90 season.

"We set a goal to win the national championship," Purnell said. "We have the opportunity to start on that quest Friday."

NCAA tournament tickets can be purchased by calling the Clemson Athletic Ticket Office at 800-CLEMSON starting Monday at 8 a.m. Tickets will be $66 each.

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