Originally created 03/13/98

NCAA notes: Opponent gains Tigers' respect



CHICAGO -- The Clemson players and coaching staff admit they knew almost nothing about No. 11-seed Western Michigan (20-7) -- the sixth-seeded Tigers' (18-13) opponent today (12:30 p.m., Channel 12) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the United Center.

The Broncos have quickly earned their respect.

"They have a great transition game and shoot really well," said Clemson senior Greg Buckner.

"They're a very good 3-point shooting team and very quick, and we know it creates some matchup problems for us," junior Iker Iturbe said.

Western Michigan, one of three teams from the Mid-American Conference in the tournament, won at Michigan and has defeated UNC-Charlotte, both top 25 teams, this season. The Broncos are led by athletic senior forward Saddi Washington (21.7 points per game). Clemson coach Rick Barnes couldn't track down as many videotapes of Western Michigan games as he would have liked, but he has seen enough of the Broncos to know what the Tigers face today.

"They are a very tough team to prepare for just from the fact that they shoot the ball really well, have great stuff on offense and will turn you over 20 times a game."

North Carolina State and Wake Forest immediately come to mind for Barnes and his players.

"They're great on the perimeter like Wake," said guard Terrell McIntyre, who scored 19 points last Friday on Clemson's 75-56 win over Wake Forest in the ACC tournament.

"They're a lot like the Wake team and the (N.C.) State team, because they are small and quick and do a great job breaking the defense down off the dribble and getting into gaps."

BULL SESSION: Clemson just wouldn't relinquish the their cushy digs following its 50-minute workout at the United Center on Thursday.

After all, the Tigers had the best setup in the house. They were assigned to the Chicago Bulls' locker room.

"It's pretty nice in there," said Clemson forward Tony Christie, decked out in Nike Air Jordan garb from head-to-toe. "A lot more spacious than most locker rooms."

The Bulls' players name tags were removed from the stalls, but everyone knew which locker belonged to Michael Jordan.

And, out of respect for one of its all time greats, Clemson assigned the locker to Buckner.

When the Tigers lost to Illinois at the United Center in December, they used the locker room of the building's other primary tenant -- the NHL's Blackhawks.

PAW PRINTS: Clemson junior guard Johnny Miller is feeling "much better" after a week-long bout with the flu that sent him to the campus infirmary on Monday night. The Tigers are 8-6 in the NCAA Tournament -- nine of 10 players have previous tournament experience.