NCAA Clemson Auburn Basketball

Clemson forward Elijah Thomas (14) celebrates with guard Marcquise Reed during their game against Auburn in the NCAA Tournament last season. File/AP Photo/Denis Poroy

CLEMSON — Marcquise Reed rolled into the ACC's annual basketball media day event in Charlotte last month missing a dress shoe, which had Clemson teammate Shelton Mitchell cackling with laughter at his expense.

Somewhere in the midst of packing, Reed had only thrown one dress shoe into his bag, then got to Charlotte and realized once it was too late that part of his ensemble was missing. He informed Clemson coach Brad Brownell of his conundrum, Brownell laughed at him too and then he came up with the most creative solution he could think of.

When Reed needed to be in his nice-clothes attire, he would wear a pair of Brownell's extra black size 13 sneakers. Of course, Brownell was glad to point out his player's misadventure in Charlotte.

In the grand scheme of things, it was an innocent tale that was silly in nature and not relevant to the start of college basketball. But it was a telling moment for the Clemson men's basketball team, serving as a microcosm for a larger picture.

This time a year ago, Brownell and his players traveled to the event answering questions about a crippling NIT loss and Brownell’s job security. They were picked to finish 13th in the conference for the 2017-18 season.

But a year later, they were laughing about something as trivial as shoes, carrying on all afternoon as they were picked to finish sixth in the conference.

That's what a Sweet 16 appearance will do.

Ranked for the first time since 2009, this Clemson basketball team is ready to channel that fun, loose mood into more success on the floor.

"We want to go out with a bang, really just have fun and just do everything we can to have another great year," Mitchell said.

"Going off of what he said, (I) just (want to) enjoy my senior season," Reed followed. "Try to do all the right things on and off the court and just make it a fun time."

The Tigers return Mitchell and Reed, two dynamite guards with loads of experience, alongside senior center Elijah Thomas, who was an all-ACC defender last year. Winning equates to fun and Clemson, ranked No. 22, is projected to do that.

Clemson loses veteran leaders and scoring threats Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham from last year's team, but there is still plenty of experience this time around with a group that now knows what it is like to be in the NCAA Tournament and what it is like to excel.

Factoring in that Grantham went down with a season-ending ACL tear in January of last year, Clemson returns four of its five starters from last year's tournament-bound team.

Brownell, who got his Clemson team to buy into playing defense a season ago, likes the veteran makeup mixed with young talent and likes where his Tigers are in the preseason.

Certainly this has to be the most comfortable the Clemson coach has felt in a while, and that was on display last month.

"I'm excited,” Brownell said. “Any time you're blessed to have a backcourt like these guys coming back, experienced players who have been through the wars of our league, been in NCAA Tournament games ... it just gives you a lot of confidence.”

That’s the feeling Clemson wants.

Clemson Tigers 

Last season: 25-10, 11-7 (Tied for 3rd in ACC)

Coach: Brad Brownell, 149-113 in 8 seasons at Clemson

Notable: Clemson is coming off of its first NCAA Tournament trip since the 2011 season, which marked just the 12th time the Tigers had been to the big dance and only the third time they had been to the Sweet 16. The Tigers return four starters from the second half of last season: Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and Aamir Simms. Reed was an All-ACC second-team performer, while Thomas was an All-ACC defender.

Clemson men's schedule 

Nov. 6 The Citadel 7 p.m.

Nov. 9 North Carolina Central 7 p.m.

Nov. 14 Sam Houston State 7 p.m. 

Nov. 19 Akron at Grand Cayman Islands 11 a.m. 

Nov. 20 Georgia/Illinois State at Grand Cayman Islands TBA

Nov. 21 TBD at Grand Cayman Islands TBA 

Nov. 26 Nebraska 7 p.m. 

Dec. 4 Saint Peter's 7 p.m. 

Dec. 8 Mississippi State at Newark, N.J. 4 p.m. 

Dec. 15 Radford 3 p.m. 

Dec. 18 Charleston Southern 7 p.m. 

Dec. 22 at South Carolina 2 p.m. 

Dec. 30 Lipscomb 3 p.m. 

Jan. 5 at Duke TBA 

Jan. 9 at Syracuse 8 p.m. 

Jan. 12 Virginia 12 p.m.

Jan. 16 Georgia Tech 9 p.m. 

Jan. 22 at Florida State 7 p.m.

Jan. 26 at N.C. State 2 p.m. 

Jan. 29 Pittsburgh 9 p.m.

Feb. 3 Wake Forest 12 p.m. 

Feb. 6 at Georgia Tech 7 p.m. 

Feb. 9 Virginia Tech 12 p.m. 

Feb. 13 at Miami 7 p.m. 

Feb. 16 at Louisville 12 p.m. 

Feb. 19 Florida State 9 p.m. 

Feb. 23 Boston College 12 p.m.

Feb. 27 at Pittsburgh 7 p.m. 

March 2 North Carolina TBA 

March 6 at Notre Dame 9 p.m.

March 9 Syracuse 12 p.m.

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.