- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Clemson coach Brad Brownell understands where his teams came up short the past few seasons and plans to fix it going forward.

The Tigers’ season came to end last weekend when they were not selected for the NIT, despite a headline-grabbing run in Atlantic Coast Conference play when they defeated ranked opponents Louisville, Duke and Miami in consecutive games for the first time in school history.

Clemson (17-14, 10-8) won double-digit games in the ACC for the second time in three years and fifth time in school history.

Brownell said Clemson stumbled early on when it went 7-5 during its nonconference schedule - with four of those losses coming against Power Five conference teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve got to find a way to do better early on,” Brownell said. “That’s on me.”

And a better job at the end. The Tigers dropped four of their final five games, a run that included two demoralizing defeats to Georgia Tech when they squandered a 13-point lead in the second half of one game and, in the ACC Tournament, an 18-point second-half lead to lose in overtime.

Clemson failed to make the field of 68 for the fifth straight season. It is the school’s second consecutive year without any postseason bid.

“I can understand the people who are impatient and want to get to the (NCAA) tournament. I understand their frustration, especially these last three years,” Brownell said.

Brownell said Clemson is on much better footing than some believe.

As evidence, he points to the development of Jaron Blossomgame, a 6-foot-7 junior who was the team’s leading scorer and a first-time all-ACC member. Brownell said Blossomgame rose from preseason obscurity to one of the league’s most dynamic players.

Blossomgame filed paperwork for the NBA Draft on Wednesday, but he has not hired an agent, giving him a chance to return to school if he does not get a positive assessment after team workouts and the draft combine in May.

Two years ago, Brownell said Clemson was in a similar situation with K.J. McDaniels, a high-flying forward who was a first-team all-ACC member and picked by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the draft in 2014.

“Jaron and K.J. say a lot about what we’ve been able to do,” Brownell said.

Next year figures to a pivotal one for Brownell, who signed a six-year contract extension following the 2014 season.

The school unveils a $63.5 million renovation to Littlejohn Coliseum - the Tigers’ biggest wins this season all came at Greenville’s downtown arena about 40 minutes from campus - next fall that includes modern locker rooms and practice facilities that Brownell hopes can attract top players to a school that is typically down the line among the most attractive ACC programs.

“We’ve really had nothing to show them,” Brownell said. “With the construction, now we can reap some of the benefit.”

He’ll also have transfers Shelton Mitchell of Vanderbilt and Marcquise Reed of Robert Morris next fall. Mitchell is more of a traditional point guard, Brownell said, than Clemson’s had in recent seasons. Reed led Robert Morris in scoring (15.1 points a game) two seasons ago before coming to Clemson.

Both should provide Clemson with a more competitive backcourt. Smallish senior Jordan Roper often got overrun by stronger ACC guards this season.

If Blossomgame returns, Brownell believes the Tigers can take significant steps toward their NCAA Tournament goal.

“The things we’ve done have gotten our program to a much better point than it was five years ago,” the coach said. “We’re in a much better place and optimistic we can make the next step.”

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