Pairings have been announced for the 76 Classic, which will be held Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-29) at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center. Clemson will face Texas A&M in the first round of the tournament. The two teams are scheduled to square off on ESPN2 at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on Thanksgiving Day.
The 76 Classic field includes eight teams: Butler, Clemson, Long Beach State, Minnesota, Portland, Texas A&M, UCLA and West Virginia. Other first-round matchups on Nov. 26 are West Virginia/Long Beach State (2:00 p.m.), Minnesota/Butler (8:30 p.m.), and UCLA/Portland (10:30 p.m.).
Seven of the eight teams reached the postseason in 2008-09, including six that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The seven postseason teams from the previous year matches a record for an eight-team tournament.
This will be the sixth meeting on the hardwood between the Tigers and Aggies. Clemson holds a 3-2 advantage in the series, but Texas A&M won the most recent game between the two in the 2005 NIT. Despite a career-high 26 points from then-freshman Cliff Hammonds, the Tigers fell to an Aggie team featuring current NBA player Acie Law by a score of 82-74 in College Station.
Texas A&M also won the first game in the series, a 78-63 triumph at the Sun Bowl Carnival in 1969. Clemson then won the next three games over the Aggies, including an 82-79 double overtime win in the 1982 season opener in Alaska. In that win, Clemson’s Milan Belich made the first three-point goal in NCAA history.
The Tigers return a pair of starters and 11 lettermen from last year’s team that went 23-9 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Clemson has 72 wins over the last three years alone, third-best in the ACC behind only North Carolina and Duke. Trevor Booker returns for his senior season after leading the league in field goal percentage and rebounding last year. He also is Clemson’s top returning scorer (15.3 ppg). Clemson also welcomes a banner signing class, ranked as high as #11 in the nation by Scout.com.
The Aggies lost three starters as well from a 24-win team. Josh Carter, who led the team at 13.8 points per game, was lost to graduation. Frontcourt standout Chinemelu Elonu (9.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) bypassed his final year of eligibility and was selected in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft. Texas A&M is coached by Mark Turgeon, who has coached the Aggies to 49 wins in his two seasons with the program.
The winner of Clemson and Texas A&M takes on the winner of the West Virginia/Long Beach State matchup. The Tigers have never played Long Beach State in basketball, but have gone against the Mountaineers on four occasions, most recently the championship game of the 2007 NIT.
Clemson has previously played three teams on the opposite side of the bracket as well, including the storied UCLA Bruins. Behind a strong 22-point performance from former NBA player and current league executive Kiki Vandeweghe, UCLA defeated Clemson in the 1980 NCAA Elite Eight by a score of 85-74. That remains Clemson’s only appearance in the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers have also played Minnesota and Butler. Clemson defeated Butler in the 1999 NIT at home in the only previous game between the two schools. Minnesota holds a 4-2 advantage all-time against Clemson. But the Tigers won the most recent matchup in the 2006 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Clemson has experienced a tremendous amount of tournament success in recent years under Head Coach Oliver Purnell. Prior to Purnell’s arrival in 2003, the Tiger program had not won an eight-team tournament since the 1980 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. Under Purnell’s watch, Clemson has won four straight regular-season tournaments, including a pair of eight-team events.
The Tigers won the 2005 San Juan Shootout after defeating Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, Holy Cross and Akron over a three-day stretch. That broke a 25-year drought when it came to eight-team tournaments. Last year, Clemson knocked off Hofstra, TCU and Temple in the inaugural Charleston Classic to give Purnell’s program an outstanding start to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
2009 76 Classic Schedule (all times Eastern)Thursday, Nov. 26
2:00 p.m. West Virginia vs. Long Beach State (Game 1) ESPNU
4:30 p.m. Texas A&M vs. Clemson (Game 2) ESPN2
8:30 p.m. Minnesota vs. Butler (Game 3) ESPN2
10:30 p.m. UCLA vs. Portland (Game 4) ESPN2
Friday, Nov. 27
2:30 p.m. Game 5 (Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner) ESPN
5:00 p.m. Game 6 (Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser) ESPNU
9:30 p.m. Game 7 (Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner) ESPNU
11:30 p.m. Game 8 (Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser) ESPNU
Sunday, Nov. 29
2:30 p.m. Game 9 (Game 6 loser vs. Game 8 loser) ESPNU
5:00 p.m. Game 10 (Game 5 loser vs. Game 7 loser) ESPN2
7:30 p.m. Game 11 (Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 winner) ESPNU
10:00 p.m. Game 12 (Championship, Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 winner) ESPN2