CLEMSON, S.C. - In just over two years, Rick Barnes has Clemson fans crazy about something other than college football - college basketball.
Since Barnes took over for Cliff Ellis in 1994, attendance is up, excitement is up and, after the Tigers reached No. 12 in the latest rankings, respect is up.
Clemson beat defending champion Kentucky 79-71 in overtime Friday night, rising from 20th and dropping the Wildcats five spots to No. 8.
"I think Clemson deserves to have a great basketball team," Barnes said Monday. "We had to work on the mindset a little bit, though."
The Tigers have sold more than 7,000 season tickets this year, their highest total ever, and are expected to mix it up with Wake Forest and Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
It wasn't like that when Barnes arrived. Folks were more apt to talk about Clemson's 1981 national football championship than anything from its basketball history.
"I told our players that things had to start in our locker room," he said. "Before anybody on the outside is going to care, we're going to have to care. That's what goes into winning."
Indiana, which wasn't ranked in the preseason poll, beat Connecticut 68-61 in the other game at The Classic on Friday night and was 22nd in the first poll of the regular season, knocking out Marquette before the Golden Eagles even played.
Cincinnati easily remained No. 1 after receiving most of the first-place votes that had gone to Kentucky in the preseason poll. The Bearcats had 47 No. 1 votes, 13 more than they in the preseason rankings, and 1,669 points. That was well ahead of Kansas, which stayed second with 16 first-place votes and 1,598 points.
Wake Forest moved up one spot to third with four No. 1 votes and 1,571 points, while Utah jumped two places to fourth after picking up a first-place vote and 1,417 points.
UCLA held fifth, while Villanova and North Carolina each moved up one spot and were followed in the Top 10 by Kentucky, Michigan and Duke.
Iowa State again was 11th, followed by Clemson, Syracuse, Fresno State, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Stanford.
The last five were Boston College, Indiana, Minnesota, George Washington and Iowa.
Clemson hasn't been ranked this high since the 1987 team, which featured NBA star Horace Grant, was 10th for two weeks. The Tigers' appearance in this year's preseason Top 25 was the first in school history.
"I think it's a compliment to the players who built this thing," Barnes said. "But you know how polls fluctuate. I don't put a whole lot of stock in them."
Barnes has spent the past three days accepting phone calls and notes of congratulations from everyone, it seems, except his players. The coach said the team had a very subdued scrimmage on Sunday.
"They came back and had a very serious attitude," he said. "They know we've got work to do."
The No. 8 ranking is the lowest for Kentucky since the middle of the 1994-95 season. The Wildcats, who lost four players to the NBA draft from that team, were no lower than fifth last season on the way to a 34-2 record and the national championship.
Indiana, which started three freshmen against Connecticut, was ranked in last year's preseason and first regular-season polls before dropping out for the rest of the season.
The season gets into full swing this week as all but six ranked teams - Villanova, Kentucky, Michigan, Iowa State, Massachusetts and Stanford - are scheduled to play at least one game.
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us