Game 37: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson – Preview and Prediction

About Clemson: Clemson is coming off one of the more impressive games of the tournament, as they blasted No. 4 seed Auburn, 84-53. In some ways, the Tigers are kind of like the Jayhawks. They don’t have much size or depth on the interior. They score the ball at a high level and they will huck up more than their fair share of threes. The Tigers have played the second half of the season without one of their best players in Dante Grantham. Gabe DeVoe has stepped up in his absence. Since Grantham got hurt on Jan. 20, DeVoe has averaged 16.0 PPG, including seven 20+ point games. Marquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell, the other two of Clemson’s trio of guards, are very capable scorers as well. Kansas head coach Bill Self said that the Tiger guards remind him a lot of his trio of Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk.

Game Info and Notes:

  • Friday, March 23rd at 6:07 pm CT
  • CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.
  • CBS or March Madness App
  • No. 1 seed Kansas advanced to its 31st NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 with an 83-79 win against Seton Hall (3/17). It is KU’s 22nd Sweet 16 since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
  • Kansas is 10-1 this season versus the other 15 teams in the Sweet 16: 3-0 vs. West Virginia, 3-0 vs. Kansas State, 1-1 vs. Texas Tech, 1-0 vs. Kentucky, 1-0 vs. Syracuse and 1-0 vs. Texas A&M.
  • At 29-7, Kansas has won 29 games for the third-straight year and ninth time in the Bill Self era, which began in 2003-04.
  • Kansas is playing Clemson for the first time in men’s basketball. Since Bill Self took over KU in 2003-04, the Jayhawks are 12-2 against the ACC.
  • Kansas is making its 47th NCAA Tournament appearance and has a 105- 45 record in the event. The Jayhawks have advanced to 31 Sweet 16 contests, 14 Final Fours and three of their five national championships have been in NCAA Championship format (1952, 1988, 2008).
  • This is the ninth-straight year that KU has earned a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. In Bill Self’s 15 seasons, KU has never been seeded lower than a four seed.
  • This season, Kansas is 19-3 against the 2018 NCAA Tournament field.
  • Senior G Devonte’ Graham, the 2018 Big 12 Player of the Year, is the only player in NCAA Division I averaging 17.0-plus points, 7.0-plus assists, 1.6- plus steals and fewer than 3.0 turnovers per game. Graham ranks fourth nationally in assists per game at 7.5.
Tigers to Watch

Marquise Reed – 6’3″ junior, guard

The do-it-all guard has been solid thus far in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 2 APG. He leads the Tigers in scoring at 15.9 PPG and also chips in with 4.7  RPG and 3.4 APG. Reed does settle for jump shots most of the time, 45.6% of his shots come from three-point land where he’s hitting 35% of the time.

Gabe DeVoe – 6’3” senior, guard

DeVoe comes in to the Sweet 16 on a tear, coming off back-to-back 22 point games. After being much of a role player for his first three seasons, DeVoe has taken more of a scorers role this season averaging 13.7 PPG. He’s not afraid to shoot it whatsoever. An eye-popping 57% of his shots this season have been three-pointers. In two games in the NCAA Tournament, he’s attempted 15 of them, including a 6-9 performance against Auburn. KU can’t let this guy get hot.

Elijah Thomas – 6’9″ junior, forward

Thomas will have the task of matching up with Udoka Azubuike. At 6’9″, 237 lbs. he is the biggest player on the roster and Clemson’s best rebounder. He’s averaging 10.5 RPG in the NCAA Tournament. Azubuike has been cleared as a full-go by Bill Self. It’ll be intriguing to see how Thomas matches up with the big guy, because it probably isn’t crazy to say that he hasn’t faced a guy as big as Doke this season.

Prediction

Kansas 83 – Clemson 77

I like the Jayhawks on Friday night for a couple of reasons. Clemson is pretty meh when it comes to defending the three-point shot. They allow opponents to shoot 37.5% of their shots from behind the arc, allowing around 21-22 attempts per game. If Kansas can get at least that many attempts, they should and will be able to put up a good number of points.

Secondly, I just don’t see anyone who is going to contain Azubuike on the inside. Thomas at 6’9″, 237 lbs is going to have to bang with 7’0″, 280 lbs. KU will have a huge advantage there, especially with the emerging trio of Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.