5 Clemson Tigers (25-9) vs. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (29-7) -5
If you were going to base this game off of the recent success or failures of conference foes, you wouldn’t have a great barometer. The ACC and Big 12 have had great moments in the NCAA Tournament. The two conferences have also lost some first-round and second-round games that still don’t make sense. So, what we have in this Sweet 16 contest is two evenly matched teams. The Kansas Jayhawks have all of the program experience in this spot. The Clemson Tigers are the new team on the horizon with plenty of game experience and a talented group of players.
It took months for the college basketball world to acknowledge the Tigers. They didn’t become a Top 25 team until the first of January. Despite an injury to Donte Grantham 19 games into the season, the Tigers never left the Top 25 for the rest of the season. However, they did have some dicey moments with a three-game losing streak that started on Valentine’s Day. The first loss was an iffy one to the Florida State Seminoles. The second loss was to the Duke Blue Devils. They also had a terrible loss to the Syracuse Orange in March. Turns out, the Seminoles are one game from the Final Four and the Orange and Blue Devils will battle for another Elite 8 spot.
Despite garnering another Big 12 title and a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, the Jayhawks didn’t have an easy season. They were never guaranteed to win the conference until Keenan Evans suffered an injured toe for Texas Tech Red Raiders. Earlier in the season, the Red Raiders gave the Jayhawks beatdown in Lawrence. Then, the Jayhawks proceeded to get lucky with five straight wins by 3.6 points per game. As a result, the Jayhawks have been surviving and advancing all year long. Now, they are entering their Sweet 16 game with a five-game winning streak. In fact, the Jayhawks have won 10 of their last 11 games.
However, they kind of struggled to get to the second weekend. The Jayhawks defeated the Penn Quakers by 16 points. They returned to defeat the Seton Hall Pirates by four points in the second round. Meanwhile, the Tigers were a dominant force, winning two tournament games by 21 points per contest.
Both teams have great guard play. Neither team has huge size, especially when Udoka Azubuike is out for the Jayhawks. Still, there are two ways for Clemson to complete the upset. First, they need to control the combination of Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman. The Tigers also need to dominate the glass. They also need to prevent a huge run to start the game.
If it’s an up and down game, that will probably favor Kansas. They come into the regional semifinals scoring 81.4 points per game. The Tigers score 73.8 points per game. However, they did drop 84 points on the Auburn Tigers in the Round of 32. Clearly, the Tigers can get out and run. Still, they have not won three straight games since February 8th.
The Tigers have four players averaging double figure points. Marcquise Reed leads the way with 15.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Graham leads the Jayhawks with 17.4 points, 4 rebounds and 7.5 assists. The winner of this matchup wins the game, right?
Score Prediction- Clemson 80 – Kansas 75