March Madness Confidential: How Clemson stayed great after losing Donte Grantham

Clemson is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, but the Tigers' punching their ticket to the Big Dance didn't come with as much national fanfare as you might think considering the program's seven-year drought. 

It's a compliment to Brad Brownell and this year's Clemson team, having played so well during the year that their inclusion in the field of 68 seemed very ordinary. The Tigers finished tied for the third best record in the ACC 

Prior to his injury, Donte Grantham was playing like the most improved player in the entire ACC. The 6-8 senior was a big-time offensive threat through 19 games, averaging a career-best 14.2 points per game and shooting 56 percent from the field. Then in the second half of a Clemson win against Notre Dame on Jan. 20, Grantham suffered what would be later be confirmed as a season-ending knee injury. 

When Grantham arrived at Clemson, making the NCAA Tournament was the goal. Achieving that goal proved to be elusive during his career, so even though he's not going to be able to play Grantham is getting himself tuned up for the weekend. 

"It's crazy I'm not playing, but I feel like I've got to get ready," Grantham said on CBS Sports' March Madness Confidential (video above), which will be following the Tigers and six other teams on their NCAA Tournament runs. "I'm still going to do that on the bench and still support our team the best way I can." 

CBS Sports' cameras we in the room for Brownell's address on Sunday after the team celebrated receiving the No. 5 seed in the East Region, set for a First Round matchup against New Mexico State in San Diego. 

"We've handled the adversity of losing one of our really good players unbelievably well, because we've got good leadership," Brownell told the team. "We've got great versatility in our lineup. Other guys have gotten opportunities and we've handled it." 

Versatility really has been the key to Clemson sustaining the loss of Grantham and remaining at the top of its game heading into the postseason. Freshman Aamir Simms and junior David Skara have both improved with more playing time over the last dozen games, stepping in without allowing the Tigers' elite defense (No. 8 nationally in defensive efficiency) take a step back after losing such a key piece. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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