Sunday, March 18, 2018

Top-seeded Kansas to face No. 5 seed Clemson Friday night in Omaha

Tipoff set for 6:07 p.m. on CBS

Clemson forward Elijah Thomas, front, celebrates a basket with forward David Skara during the first half of a second-round NCAA men's college basketball tournament game against Auburn on Sunday, March 18, 2018, in San Diego.

Clemson forward Elijah Thomas, front, celebrates a basket with forward David Skara during the first half of a second-round NCAA men's college basketball tournament game against Auburn on Sunday, March 18, 2018, in San Diego.


It's Kansas vs. Clemson on Friday night in Omaha, Neb., with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.

The top-seeded Jayhawks (29-7) will be playing for a third consecutive trip to the Elite Eight and the eighth in head coach Bill Self's 15 seasons at Kansas.

The fifth-seeded Tigers (25-9), who thrashed No. 4 seed Auburn 84-53 on Sunday night in San Diego, will be playing for a spot in just their second Elite Eight in school history. Their only other trip came in 1980 and the Tigers are playing in just their 12th NCAA Tournament ever and first since 2011.

The Jayhawks and Tigers will tip off at 6:07 p.m. on CBS on Friday and Clemson figures to have KU's full attention from now until then.

“That was probably as impressive of a performance as anyone has had in the tournament so far and there have been some great performances," KU coach Bill Self said in a statement Sunday night. "They dominated Auburn in every area — perimeter play, speed, rebounding and in the paint. Watching them today was like watching a clinic. We’ll have a good book on them in the next 24 hours or so.”

The Jayhawks will be crashing an all-ACC regional in Omaha this weekend, with No. 2 seed Duke and No. 11 seed Syracuse playing in Friday's other matchup. The two winners will play on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four in San Antonio. As was the case in Wichita this weekend, the Jayhawks figure to have a significant edge in fans in the stands.

KU's campus is just 210 miles south of Omaha's CenturyLink Center.

Clemson (1,098 miles from Littlejohn Coliseum to CenturyLink), Duke (1,236 from Cameron Indoor Stadium) and Syracuse (1,134 from the Carrier Dome) all must travel from several states away to get to the site of this year's Midwest Regional semifinals and final.

The Tigers finished the season ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll and currently rank No. 14 in the rankings. The Tigers are ranked 42nd in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings and 7th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Kansas, meanwhile, currently sits 9th in the KenPom rankings, 5th in offensive efficiency and 43rd in defensive efficiency.

“They are so well coached and sound," Self said of Clemson, which some have dubbed a poor man's Virginia. "Playing in the ACC, they’ve played against some unbelievable teams all year long. This will be a difficult game. A game that will require us to play a lot better than we did this past weekend.”

While the experience edge clearly will favor the Jayhawks in Friday's matchup — Kansas seniors Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk have played in more NCAA Tournament games than Clemson's entire program has, 24-22 — KU coach Bill Self made sure to point out after Saturday's 83-79 victory over Seton Hall in Wichita that there was only one thing that truly mattered this time of year.

“I think in the NCAA Tournament you don't worry as much if you played well or if you played poorly,” Self said. “You worry more about did we advance. And I think that's all we did this weekend is we advanced. I don't think we were good against Penn, except for short stretches, and I don't think we were very good (Saturday), except for short stretches. And of course, Seton Hall had a lot to do with that. But we put ourselves in a position where hopefully we'll play much better next week and play our best ball. And certainly we're going to have to be better on Friday.”

The Tigers enter the matchup winners of just five or their last 10 games. But Sunday's victory over Auburn was arguably Clemson's best game of the season and all five of those losses during that stretch came against NCAA Tournament teams.

After being picked to finish 13th in its conference during the preseason, Clemson finished third in the always-tough ACC, at 11-7. Eight of its nine losses came to NCAA Tournament teams, including two to top overall seed Virginia and one each to second-seeded Duke and North Carolina.

The Tigers, coached by Brad Brownell since 2010, also beat UNC and Miami, when both were ranked in the Top 20.

The lone loss to a non-tournament team came in November, when Temple topped the Tigers in the Charleston Classic championship game.

Clemson's guard-heavy attack features five players who average in double figures, led by 6-foot-3 junior Marcquise Reed (15.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 3.4 apg) and 6-3 senior Gabe DeVoe (13.5).

Inside, junior forward Elijah Thomas (10.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg) led the Tigers' front line.

Clemson shot 45.6 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from 3-point range this season.

Self said the Jayhawks will meet Monday and go through a light workout before practicing hard on Tuesday and again Wednesday before taking a bus up to Omaha on Wednesday afternoon. From there, they'll settle into their new surroundings and get ready to get after it.

"We’ll practice Thursday in Omaha and be ready to play Friday," Self said.

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Bryce Landon 10 months ago

That hospital job Clemson administered on Auburn put the fear of God in me! Kansas should be on red alert going into Omaha this next weekend.

And by the way, we're going to be the odd duck in Omaha with three ACC teams in the Midwest Regional. It'll be like the ACC Tournament has come to Omaha.

Jeff Coffman 10 months ago

2002 Syracuse won by winning the "Big XII" Tournament, maybe we will get sweet revenge...15 years later we can win the "ACC Tournament".

Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

We beat UK, Cuse, Aggies, KSU, WV - enough said. Our team should have CONFIDENCE to beat just about any team left in the tourney now to reach the Final... well, except TTech and Nova.

Tony Bandle 10 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] We are going to have our hands full with Clemson but Duke is going to have their hands full with Syracuse.

2] Our region will lead in ACC teams and active Hall of Fame coaches [Rat Face, Crabby Jim and HOF Bill].

3] Bruce Weber actually getting to the Sweet Sixteen.....the apocalypse must be coming soon!

4] I think we can beat Clemson and I would love a chance to stick it to that stuck up prick Grayson Allen.

5] Getting that Friday game is a break for Dok and a break for Kansas. Omaha will work great for Kansas Nation. However, if you ever get the chance to go to Omaha in January....DON'T!!

6] I thought that the 14th Title, the Big 12 Tourney, POY for Graham, 29th straight NCAA Bid, the Number One Seed, 4th AP Ranking and getting to the Sweet Sixteen would make this a satisfying season for me.......I was wrong. Screw it, let's just win the whole damn thing!!!!!!!!!

Mike Greer 10 months ago

Personally, I was glad to see Clemson have such a fantastic game, against someone other than KU, it's tough to generate two of those back to back. Hopefully they can't do that again next week. On the other hand, KU, as Coach stated, has played well for short spurts but not a whole game. I hope they can move on and have that really great game vs Duke or Cuse and get to the Final Four. Rock Chalk !!!

Mike Greer 10 months ago

And who would have thought KU would be one of two number one seeds to make it out of the first weekend!

Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

it's a brutal weekend...!! KU showed NCAA didn't make mistake.

Michael Leiker 10 months ago

Assuming WVU wins hawks 11-1 vs sweet 16 teams this year

Joe Ross 10 months ago

No problem. I know because I was wrong too (below)!

Barry Weiss 10 months ago

If we can get by Clemson, would love to see Syracuse knock off Duke. Xavier going down today helped too.

Steve Jacob 10 months ago

Wow, the East/Midwest half on the bracket looks so much harder now then the South/West side.

Marcia Parsons 10 months ago

I love it that 4 of the 7 Big12 teams have made it this far. If the committee had picked OSU instead of OU there would likely be 5 of 7.

Justin Kruse 10 months ago

Things have fallen together nicely for K-State with the 1,2,3,4&6 seeds losing! Love our conference, just can't bring myself to root for KSU.

Let's take care of business Friday. We're due for a big game. Rock Chalk

James Mathews 10 months ago

Clemson played Auburn with a vengeance, must be football motivated payback, but they looked like umbc against Virginia..... should be a classic.

Andrew Juby 10 months ago

Justin, I usually cheer for KSU for this reason: nobody picks on my little brother but me! (Couldn't cheer against UMBC, though. That would have been way too fun.)

Joe Ross 10 months ago

  1. Against the 15 other teams in the Sweet 16, Kansas has played 6 of them. Their record in those meetings is 8-1. (Someone feel free to check my math. Wins against Kentucky, aTm, Syracuse, TT, and 2 wins vs. WVU and KSU. Loss to TT.)

  2. Kansas is again playing close to home as a 1 seed, perhaps feeling a bit confident. But like Oregon last year, Clemson is a dangerous team. They completely destroyed Auburn, and led the ACC for a while this past season. They finished tied for third in a conference that placed the most teams in the Sweet 16 (ACC).

  3. If the seed numbers of the remaining teams were placed in a data set, the mean would be 5.3125, the median would be 5, and the mode would be 5.

  4. Kansas is playing much closer to home than any other seed remaining in the Sweet 16. Villanova and Kentucky are next and both play within 6 hours. The farthest travel is Florida State, who plays in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, and despite seed numbers, Kansas probably has the hardest path to the national championship that any other highest-remaining seed by region.

  5. "IF" Kansas gets by Clemson, they will be playing a zone team in either Syracuse or Duke. Mixed success there. While we handled Syracuse handily, we were flummoxed by Washington's zone. The switch might have implications.

  6. The top four seeds in the South Region are GONE!

  7. Games have either been nail-biters or complete blowouts, with few games occupying a middle ground.

  8. The rest for Udoka is going to be helpful.

  9. The final score of the Seton Hall game was exactly the score that Kansas defeated OU by to the National Championship in '88.

Corey Sparks 10 months ago

3 wins vs WVU and another 3 wins vs KState.

Joe Ross 10 months ago

"A wise man loveth correction."


Dee Shaw 10 months ago

Not sure if this makes sense or not but I was rooting for Syracuse to beat Michigan St but hope Duke beats Syracuse because I would rather play Duke than Syracuse. Lol. Syracuse to me is building confidence with each game and playing against that zone scares me. Yes we did beat them earlier in the year but now it’s March. Either team Duke or Syracuse presents issues. For now let’s focus on beating Clemson and worry about Duke or Syracuse on Sunday. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Shannon Gustafson 10 months ago

Duke is a zone team as well...just not as well-versed in it but more talented personnel.

Jim Stauffer 10 months ago

What I like about this time of the year is our team is afforded the opportunity to take on challenges they have not planned from the beginning of the season. This year's team is lacking in pure physicality, but has a surplus of attitude that has seemed to offset that. As Coach phrased it, "These guys really know how to compete." That will be the best memory of this team for me. Having had the opportunity to watch them go out and compete even against odds that seemed impossible at the time. Clemson is probably superior to us physically, but I think we can actually play the game better than they.

Matthew Roesner 10 months ago

Bulletin board material for KU. A "re-ranking" of the Sweet 16 teams. It has Clemson as the third best team right now, and KU as the tenth.

Chad Smith 10 months ago

I will have to watch some Clemson games on YouTube as admittedly I am not very familiar with them this season. I have a feeling if Udoka is back closer to 100%, I have to like our chances no matter who we play.

Kansas has yet to put together a complete game in the Tourney so far. That is a pro/con situation as our margin for error decreases with each round. But overall it's encouraging to believe that our best games are in front of us and not behind us.

If you subscribe to the kenpom stats, these teams are inverse of each other, with Clemson being top 10 defensively and lower 40 offensively and Kansas the opposite being 5th offensively and 46th defensively.

I think it's clear our defensive rebounding is still awful and penetration defense is suspect at times. We've offset that with good passing, good shooting and honestly not piling up fouls at a rapid pace.

We can deep dive more, but the home court advantage will be substantial and important and as long as Kansas doesn't fall behind by more than 10 points, I think they can win every game. Their record this season in close games(9-2 in games decided by 5 points or fewer) is fantastic and newman really stepped up in free throw crunch time. I loved his confidence.

It's March, anything can happen, but I think our squad has as good a chance as anyone.


Jonathan Allison 10 months ago

Vick and Newman both were very good defensive rebounders at times this season. We need both to go after rebounds from here out. For all of the things that Azubuike does that help this team win, he doesn't rebound the ball as much as you would expect from an athletic 280 pound 7 footer. Especially now with a sprained knee we need our guards to attack the glass and prevent opponents from getting extra possessions.

Corey Sparks 10 months ago

One thing I learned from last tournament is it doesn't matter what you hope for or which team you think is a better matchup. Last year I was nervous as hell against MSU, and nervous as hell against Purdue. We blew both of them out. OREGON I was pretty confident we would beat, and we all know what happened.

Also last year up to the elite 8 we looked like the team to beat, even the so called "experts" were saying so. If I recall we had the biggest win margin. Survive and advance. And Devontes shot is bound to start falling again.

Mike Greer 10 months ago

After years of watching college basketball, it seems the teams that win it all, are the ones that can win a couple of ugly games along the way. Last year I was fortunate to see the MSU game live, we looked absolutely unbeatable, and then Purdue was supposed to be such a difficult matchup, and again, we looked unbeatable. Then we had the ugly game and couldn't win vs Oregon. We probably could have won th first two games, even ugly, but we played great when great wasn't necessary. A team is only going to have so many "great " games, the key to March Madness is to have that great game or games at the right times. It's time to get a couple of great games together like we did in the Big XII tournament.

Bill Kiekel 10 months ago

Lots of great comments on this one, Mike yours is very thoughtful and right on about "great" games at the right times. RockChalk !

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