Clemson, Kansas’s Sweet 16 opponent, started off 16-3 before losing Donte Grantham, one of its best players, to a knee injury. Injuries are never good, obviously, but it is good news that Kansas doesn’t have to face him, and it’s also good I don’t have to hear or read about him and get him confused with Devonte Graham all week. Anyway, after the injury, Clemson has gone just 9-6, although it’s also fair to note its schedule got a lot tougher around the time of the injury for a cruel double whammy.
Clemson’s offense ranked 11th in ACC play, scoring 1.04 points per trip, but that overshadows some danger the Tigers provide. For the season they take around 40 percent of their shots from behind the arc, and shoot a pretty good 36.8 percent. That number is down ever so slightly to 36.4 percent when taking Grantham out of the picture, but it’s clear they can shoot it well. It’s also worth noting their starting 5, who get about as much playing time as KU’s starting 5, shoot about 37 percent from three. However you slice it, though, this is a team Kansas won’t want to give up a ton of open looks to.
Clemson, like a lot of teams, likes to get inside out for their threes, preferring to draw help so they can kick it to open shooters:
The shooter in the previous clip, Shelton Mitchell, is a 37 percent shooter this season, so naturally Kansas won’t be able to leave him open. You’ll note Mitchell’s release is relatively slow and he stays pretty flat footed, so he needs others to create for him. However, because of that release, I think Kansas can somewhat safely help off him and be able to recover enough to bother a shot.
Speaking of being able to safely help off, Clemson ranked 10th in the ACC in turnover rate this year, although it’s worth noting they turned it over a bit below the national average this season. However, in all of Clemson’s losses this year they turned it over on more than 20 percent of their possessions, so naturally it is important for Kansas to turn them over. Clemson scored about 1.27 points per effective possession (aka points per possession without a turnover) in ACC play. For comparison’s sake, Kansas’s number was 1.35 points per effective possession, so while Clemson wasn’t as prolific as the Jayhawks, they can certainly still score.
Another key to stopping Clemson is stopping 6-9 big man Elijah Thomas. Thomas is the only Tiger who does any offensive rebounding whatsoever, and he’s also a prolific scorer. He takes about two-thirds of his shots at the rim, and shoots 67 percent there. It would be huge if Kansas can keep him away from the rim as much as possible, however, given that he shoots in the mid 30s on 2-point jumpers.
Can they? Well, the good news is he’s a bit more of a shoot-over-you big man rather than a go-through-you big man. He also relies on finesse and athleticism moreso than strength. Here we see him hit a nice lefty hook:
Again, a lefty hook. As you can imagine, he really likes going over his right shoulder:
The good news is, it’s going to be a lot tougher to back down Udoka Azubuike than a lot of the other big men Clemson has faced this year.
He will also handle the ball fairly well on the perimeter, although as you might imagine for a big man, he’s really dependent on his dominant hand. Kansas should let him shoot it from out there, though, and not let him create, because he’s a decent passer:
Let’s pivot back to the perimeter. Clemson’s best 3-point shooter is Gabe DeVoe, who shoots 40 percent on 208 attempts this season. Oddly, he’s shot just 33.3 percent against tier A competition on KenPom, but I would be surprised if that had anything to do with a factor other than small sample size.
DeVoe probably shouldn’t be left alone off the dribble:
DeVoe also has a pretty quick release off catch and shoot, so Kansas will want to not help off him:
One thing DeVoe does quite a bit more against tougher teams that I don’t think is just a sample size issue is commit turnovers. His turnover rate for the season is 16.4 percent, which spikes up to 23.6 percent against tier A teams. Kansas probably overtrapped against Seton Hall, but it might be worthwhile to do so against DeVoe in an effort to get some easy run outs:
So the big keys for Kansas against Clemson’s offense are: 1) Try to push Elijah Thomas away from the basket and make him take medium range twos, and 2) Don’t help off Gabe DeVoe.
Clemson ranks 7th nationally in defense at KenPom, and ranked 3rd in ACC play in PPP allowed, allowing 100.4 points per 100 possessions in league play.
Chief among our concerns is Clemson ranks 7th nationally in 2 point percentage allowed, allowing opponents to shoot just 43.8 percent inside the arc. They also rank 23rd in shot blocking, blocking 13.4 percent of their opponents shots.
Clemson ranks 126th nationally in shots allowed at the rim (slightly better than Texas Tech), and 17th in FG% at the rim (roughly equal to West Virginia) so it would probably behoove Kansas to look elsewhere to score.
Fortunately, Clemson allows their fair share of threes, right at the national average of 37.5 3PA/FGA. Their bigs will usually hedge somewhat hard up top, but sometimes they will do a bit of a half hedge and then drop back, which could lead to a few off the dribble threes for Graham:
They also will at times overhelp and give up quite a few corner threes, which should be good news for Svi:
Clemson also rarely forces turnovers, which is good news in that Kansas will have plenty more opportunities to score, but in a way bad news because Kansas is good at taking care of the ball as it is, and would in some ways probably prefer facing a team that depends on forcing turnovers to stop teams from scoring.
The other positive is Elijah Thomas, their best interior defender, also commits 5 fouls per 40 minutes (and 6 per 40 minutes in conference play). I expect Kansas will dump it inside to Udoka Azubuike somewhat often in order to get Thomas out of the game, as without him their defense at the rim is much worse.
The keys for that side of the ball for the Jayhawks are: 1) shoot threes early and shoot them often, 2) move the ball well and avoid going 1 on 1, and 3) get it to Azubuike for easy baskets and/or fouls.