OMAHA, Neb. — No. 1 seed Kansas (29-7) vs. No. 5 seed Clemson (25-9)
Midwest Region semifinal; Omaha, Nebraska; Friday, 7 p.m. EDT
BOTTOM LINE: The Jayhawks are the top seed and will have what should amount to a home game on a neutral floor. But Clemson raised eyebrows with a 31-point thrashing of Auburn to reach the Sweet Sixteen, and the Tigers have the kind of deep and experienced backcourt that can lead a tourney run in March.
AZUIBUKE’S STATUS: The Jayhawks’ four-guard lineup works in part because of the presence of big man Udoka Azubuike, who leads the nation by shooting 77.5 percent from the floor. Azubuike missed the Big 12 Tournament because of a minor knee injury, but he played 22 minutes in an 83-79 win over Seton Hall last weekend. Coach Bill Self said Azubuike will likely start against the Tigers.
“I’m feeling good, feeling pretty good. I’m better than I was last week. I’m ready,” Azubuike said.
A BASKETBALL SCHOOL?: Clemson has made three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances and won it all following the 2016 season. But the Sweet Sixteen is a rarity for the Tigers, who haven’t been here in 21 years. Coach Brad Brownell, who entered 2017-18 on the hot seat after six years between NCAA appearances, feels like this run could be the start of something big.
It “took us some time to get the money that we wanted and to get the support that we needed to change our facility and make the kind of adjustments that you have to have,” said Brownell, whose school poured $63.5 million into a renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum that finished in 2016. “To follow that up with a really good season shortly thereafter…will help us to build our brand.”
DID YOU KNOW: The Tigers and Jayhawks have never played each other, and Clemson has only played once in Omaha. The Tigers lost to Creighton 87-67 in 1962. …Kansas has been in the NCAA Tournament 47 times and reached the Final Four 14 times.
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