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Clemson to take on New Mexico in first round of NCAA Tournament

Toby Corriston
Clemson center PJ Hall slams a dunk against Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Capital One Arena on March 13, 2024.

The No. 6 seed Clemson Tigers (21-11) will face off against the No. 11 seed New Mexico Lobos (26-9) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET in Memphis, Tennessee.

Compared to the Lobos, the Tigers closed out their conference tournament play with far different momentum swings heading into Friday. New Mexico won four straight games that led them to be Mountain West conference champions, with big wins against tournament-caliber teams such as Boise State (No. 10 seed), Colorado State (No. 10 seed) and San Diego State (No. 5 seed) to win the championship. On the other hand, Clemson lost by double digits in the second round of the ACC Tournament to a Boston College team that missed the NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico is heading into Friday’s matchup as a 2.5-point favorite despite being the lower seed. Clemson has dealt well with being the underdog throughout the season. Against the odds, the Tigers are 6-1, with an average margin of victory of 7.6, according to

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell consistently finds a motivating factor when heading into a game as the underdog, and that factor is to start with the upper hand.

“They’re coming in feeling really good about themselves, and we better be ready from the tip,” Brownell said on Sunday. “I think that is good for us to remind ourselves of good play.”

A key reason as to why Clemson was able to defeat No. 1 seed North Carolina earlier in the season was its ability to start the game with momentum. The Tigers started the game with a 15-2 lead, which put them in the driver’s seat for the majority of the game.

New Mexico is playing its best basketball at the perfect time of the season, and Clemson is going to have to put a halt to its run. The Lobos are led by coach Richard Pitino, the son of legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino. New Mexico has a well-put-together team with a very dynamic and explosive offensive scheme that has led them to be one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. New Mexico averages 81.7 points per game and is the No. 22 defense in the nation in terms of defensive efficiency.

Despite its abilities to control the game on both ends of the court, Clemson has the perfect play style on offense to pick apart the Lobos’ defensive effort. New Mexico’s biggest weakness, defensively, is its ability to defend at the rim and shots within the 3-point line. New Mexico gave up 51.6% of its opponents’ points inside the arc, which ranks 223rd in the nation, according to

If PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin can utilize their skills in the paint, it could be a long night for the Lobos. The Tigers have a tough matchup Friday afternoon against New Mexico and are looking to get their first NCAA Tournament win since 2018.

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About the Contributors
Jose Zarraluqui, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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