One of the cool things about the NCAA Tournament is running into school that you don’t play very often, or, in this case, have never played. Consequently, how much do you really know about Clemson? Let’s find out.
Location: Clemson, SC
Located in the western corner of South Carolina, Clemson is located less than 30 miles from both the Georgia and Tennessee borders.
Good grief, can you get any more generic? (Well yeah, I guess you can.) It doesn’t even appear as if there’s a good reason that they chose “Tigers” - they simply borrowed the nickname from Auburn. When Clemson hired an Auburn grad to coach their football team in 1896, he simply brought the nickname with him.
Obviously, that’s not nearly as cool as our Jayhawkers, who were basically gangs from Kansas who fought against pro-slavery factions from Missouri in the 1850s, prior to the onset of the Civil War.
Reminder that South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860.
Enrollment: 23,406 (2016)
Acceptance Rate: 51% (2015)
SB Nation Blog: Shakin’ The Southland
Cool Tradition: I couldn’t find a single basketball tradition. This is completely, 100% a football school. This is probably due in large part to their 1284-1283 all-time record. They’ve only finished a season in the AP Top-25 five times in their history. But I digress.
One thing I thought was cool was that in 1977, Georgia Tech decided to stop playing an annual football game against Clemson. Students and alumni stamped $2 bills with orange Tiger paws and used them in Atlanta to show the money Tiger fans spent at athletic events. The rivalry resumed in 1983 when Tech joined the ACC, but the tradition continues today for fans attending any away game.
Better than KU in football? Duh. But to elaborate, since KU last won a road game - any road game - Clemson has gone 96-26 and won a national title in 2016.
Or, look at it this way. It’s taken KU right at two and a half years to lose as many games as Clemson has lost over the past nine years combined.
Kansas and Clemson have never met in basketball (or football).
25-9, 11-7 T-3rd ACC
Clemson was picked to finish 13th (!!!!) in the preseason media poll, completely defying expectations as the season rolled along.
Last time out: Defeated Auburn (from whom they stole a mascot, see above) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 84-53.
The Tiger have won 5 of their last 7 games.
2016-2017 Record: 17-16, 6-12, Lost to Oakland in the first round of the NIT.
The Tigers are coached by Brad Brownell, who is 149-112 in his 8th year at Clemson. Brownell has a career 316-197 record in 16 seasons overall with previous stops at UNC Wilmington and Wright State.
Brownell was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2006, as well as the Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2008.
How scary are they?
On a scale of 1-10, how about a 6? Clemson is the #14 team at KenPom. They are a top 50 offense per adjusted efficiency, where they really shine is on defense. The Tigers are a top-10 defense, and are one of the top teams in the country in 2-point field goal defense. Fortunately for Kansas, the Tigers aren’t a great offensive rebounding team. It should also be noted that Clemson is missing its second-leading scorer in Donte Grantham, and without him, Clemson has gone just 11-6, albeit against the tougher portion of their schedule.
KenPom has Clemson’s win probably at 46% and predicts a 72-71 Kansas victory.
Common Opponents: Clemson lost at Syracuse in ACC Conference play 55-52 on March 3; Kansas beat Syracuse in Miami 76-60 on Dec 2. Clemson also beat Texas Southern this year 84-77 on Nov 24; KU beat TSU 114-71 on Nov 21.
There are no other common opponents for the Jayhawks and Tigers. The Tigers don’t really have any bad losses, with the possible exception of a loss to Temple on a neutral floor way back on November 19.
Three Man Weave
- At this point, we have a bit of a tradition going, so defensive rebounding will stay first on this preview as well. On the season, Kansas has allowed teams to rebound 31.4% of their misses on the season. As mentioned above, Clemson is not a great offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 27.0% of their shots, making them a sub-200 offensive rebounding team per KenPom. If KU can keep Clemson to at or below their season average, it will obviously limit the Tigers’ ability to score.
- This is another experienced bunch the Jayhawks will be facing, with three juniors and a senior in the starting lineup. It’s unlikely Clemson will be phased after a season in the ACC against North Carolina, Duke, Miami, Syracuse, and others, and with a pro-KU crowd in Omaha all the pressure might be on KU to perform.
- This matchup is being billed at Clemson’s guards versus Kansas’ guards. But for all the hype, Clemson is a sub-200 team per KenPom in terms of ball security (opponent steal percentage). If Kansas can turn the Tigers over and get in transition, the Jayhawks can keep Clemson from doing what they do best - halfcourt defense. But even if Clemson gets its defense set up, Kansas should have a huge advantage inside - literally - with Udoka Azubuike, and the Jayhawks will need the big guy to stay out of foul trouble.
Yet Another Wrong Prediction
By most metrics, Kansas is the better team here, and a loss would be disappointing. Clemson may be be able to slow KU’s offense down, but as just mentioned, if KU can turn the Tigers over and/or keep them off the offensive glass, it may give the Jayhawks a chance to turn this into a track meet. Obviously, those may be some big “ifs” as we’ve seen Kansas lay a giant egg multiple times this year.
Clemson was just 3-4 against the top-25 this year, but only one of their 10 losses came to a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. I think Kansas should probably win this game more than 6 out of 10 times, especially factoring in the available talent, the coaching, and the location of the game (a quasi-home game for KU). I’ll take the Jayhawks 74-68.