Clemson coach stands by NET, Big 12 critique

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A little more than 24 hours before Clemson will face Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Tigers coach Brad Brownell stood by his assessment that the NCAA’s tournament selection committee needs to address what he believes was a manipulation of some of the numbers that helped the Big 12 get so many bids.

Brownell said in late February on Clemson’s flagship radio station that Big 12 teams had adjusted their schedules to play weaker nonleague games and beat weaker opponents by bigger margins. Those margins are reflected in metrics that are included in the NET, the NCAA Evaluation Tool used by the selection committee to help rank teams and the quality of their wins and losses.

The Big 12, where Baylor plays, had a tournament-most eight bids in this year’s tournament while the ACC, where Clemson plays, had five.

“Yeah, and it was in no disrespect to the [Big 12], but I do think they figured some things out,” Brownell said Saturday at FedEx Forum. “I think it was more a compliment than anything. I think there are a lot of teams in their league that scheduled in a way that helped their NET.

“There’s different ways to do it, you can schedule really hard games and hopefully try and win those games,” he continued. “Or, you know, it seems, you can schedule some teams that aren’t maybe as good and beat them by a lot and pad your offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. And I wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t already been put out there, not only by other coaches in our league, but some media people had figured it out. And I do think that’s a problem, it’s a problem with the system and we really need to look at it. This tournament is too important to too many people.”

Brownell also referenced the 2022-23 season when Clemson was left out of the NCAA tournament after a 23-11 finish. Brownell said he believes a closer look needs to be given to some of the strength of schedule metrics in addition to the offensive and defensive efficiency metrics.

“Again, I have all the respect in the world for the committee, [but] our heart was broken last year being left out,” Brownell said. “And one of the things was penalized for was our nonconference strength of schedule. Now that’s hard too because last year at this time I was arguing your nonconference strength of schedule shouldn’t matter as much as just your overall strength of schedule. Whatever your overall strength of schedule, that’s what it is, if you’re playing in a really hard league, like the Big 12 or the ACC, you may not want to schedule over your head in November and December, the season’s hard enough.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew was asked Saturday about Brownell’s comments from earlier this season and offered “Every coach believes, whatever league they are in, believes their league is tough and the best league … I know we have enough to be focused about, starting with a well-coached team and great players.”

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