Clemson wary of No. 12 seed New Mexico State
SAN DIEGO (AP) No. 5 seed Clemson (23-9) vs. No. 12 seed New Mexico State (28-5)
First round, Midwest Region; San Diego; 10 p.m. EDT, Friday.
BOTTOM LINE: Clemson is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 after being picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC before the season. The No. 5 seed is the highest for Clemson since 2008, when it was also a No. 5 but fell prey to the dreaded 5-12 upset and was ousted in the first round by Villanova. New Mexico State has wins this season over Illinois, Davidson and Miami and has won six straight.
INJURY IMPACT: Before Dante Grantham was injured, Clemson was 16-3. After the senior and second-leading scorer for the Tigers suffered a torn ACL, Clemson went 7-6 and failed to score at least 60 points five times during that stretch. Clearly, the Tigers still haven't completely adjusted to being without the 6-foot-8 forward and their struggles over the last third of the season are the reason Clemson is a popular pick to be an upset victim.
TRANSFER U: The reason New Mexico State is having so much success is because of transfers. The Aggies have seven transfers on their roster with another two sitting out this season after coming from other schools. None has been better than Zach Lofton, a graduate transfer from Texas Southern. Lofton averaged 19.8 points and 5.1 rebounds. He scored in double figures in all but four games this season, including 31 in the WAC tournament semifinals against Seattle. Just as important for the Aggies will be undersized forward Jemerrio Jones, who averaged 13.2 rebounds. Jones had at least 19 rebounds in seven games this year.
DID YOU KNOW: Clemson won a First Four game in 2011, but the last time the Tigers advanced to the round of 32 was 1997. Clemson was a No. 4 seed and reached the regional semifinals before losing to top-seeded Minnesota in double overtime. The Tigers have lost five straight games in the round of 64.
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