All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big 12
Date: Friday, March 23
Time: 7:07 pm Eastern
Location: Omaha, NE
Only two top seeds are left; will Kansas be the next victim, to an on-fire Clemson squad?
Strength: #6 Strength: #17
Pomeroy: #9 Pomeroy: #14
Offense: #5 Offense: #42
Defense: #46 Defense: #7
BPI: #7 BPI: #16
LRMC: #9 LRMC: #24
Consistency: #331 Consistency: #144
Schedule Strength: #3 Schedule Strength: #28
Tempo (Pomeroy): #163 Tempo: #285
AP Final Poll: #4 AP Final Poll: #20
AP Pre-season: #4 AP Pre-season: #NR
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #7 Model Rank: #20
Theoretically a 1-seed and a 5-seed should be around 16 rungs away on power ratings. They're only 11 in Strength and 9 in BPI, but before the tournament they were 15 spots different in LRMC. In Pomeroy, it's #9 vs. #14, and it's easy to see why when you look at their Offense and Defense rankings: they're the mirror image of each other. Kansas will match their #5 offense with Clemson's #7 defense, while Clemson's #42 offense faces Kansas' #46 defense. From those numbers, this game looks like a coin flip. Add in Kansas' inconsistency, and Clemson's dominant last game, and anything can happen here. If a 16-seed and a 9-seed can beat a 1-seed, a 5-seed should probably be the favorite!
- Wins vs. tournament teams (19): =(5)Kentucky+4, (12)South Dakota St.+34, (16)Texas Southern+43, =(11)Syracuse+16, @(10)Texas+6, @(6)TCU+4, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (6)TCU+7, (5)West Virginia+8, (10)Oklahoma+30, @(3)Texas Tech+2, (10)Texas+10, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11, (16)Penn+16, =(8)Seton Hall+4
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (10): =(5)Kentucky+4, =(11)Syracuse+16, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (5)West Virginia+8, @(3)Texas Tech+2, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11
- Losses to tournament teams (3): (11)Arizona St.-10, (3)Texas Tech-12, @(10)Oklahoma-5
- Other losses (4): Washington-9, Oklahoma St.-5, @Baylor-16, @Oklahoma St.-18
Overview: Kansas was an incredible 17-3 vs. the tournament field on Selection Sunday, helped by having 6 other conference teams in the Dance. Even more amazing, they have 10 wins over teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen! Seven of these are wins over the three other Big Twelve teams that made it—Kansas State x 3, West Virginia x 3, and Texas Tech—but they also played and beat Kentucky, Syracuse, and Texas A&M. Their poor consistency rating can be seen visually in the chart above; they win big and, on rare occasion, lose badly. The Jayhawks rely on their starters more than any other team in the tournament, something that could be a factor deeper in the tournament. The team's leading scorer Devonte Graham scored 29 against Penn in a tough win. They had another tough win over Seton Hall, beating the Pirates by 4 with Malik Newman scoring 28.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (9): (16)Texas Southern+7, @(5)Ohio St.+14, @(6)Florida+2, (9)North Carolina St.+16, (6)Miami FL+9, (2)North Carolina+4, (9)Florida St.+13, =(12)New Mexico St.+11, =(4)Auburn+31
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (1): (9)Florida St.+13
- Losses to tournament teams (8): @(9)North Carolina St.-1, @(2)North Carolina-8, @(1)Virginia-25, @(9)Florida St.-OT, (2)Duke-9, @(8)Virginia Tech-7, @(11)Syracuse-3, =(1)Virginia-6
- Other losses (1): =Temple-7
Overview: With Clemson, what you see is what you get for the most part; win or lose, they play about the same, as could be seen in their last 8 games—until their most recent win. They were consistent to a fault even as they went 4-4 down the stretch before the tournament. That will happen with good defensive teams who play a slow pace—it evens things out. On offense the Tigers are pretty non-descript but they make their free throws, which can smooth out the rough edges of an offense. With four players in double figures, there's always someone to pick up the slack, too (they had 5 until Donte Grantham tore his ACL). Shelton Mitchell led the Tigers with 23 points against New Mexico State, and Gabe DeVoe added 22. Against Auburn DeVoe led with 22 as the Tigers destroyed their "consistent play" chart with an outlier win.
Game Analysis: Kansas has been tepid so far, beating 16-seed Penn by 6 and Seton Hall by 4. Meanwhile Clemson just beat 4-seed Auburn by 31 in a game where they led 70-29 at one point. If they both play the same on Friday, Clemson will win by 28 points. If you want to take the team that's hot, take Clemson.
On the other hand, we have to discount the Clemson-Auburn score somewhat. Sometimes a blowout happens because one team is playing well, but other times, the losing team is playing poorly. Until that game Clemson had ranked as a very consistent team, so it's likely the blowout was more Auburn's doing than Clemson's. No doubt Clemson played well, but Auburn has been playing with 8 players and the writing was on the wall—at some point, it was going to catch up to them and it did on Sunday.
Could a similar thing happen to starter-dependent Kansas? The Jayhawks have only really been using 8 players lately. That's different from only having 8 players like Auburn, but if anyone gets hurt Kansas is in trouble.
The real interesting part of this matchup is that, on both sides of the court, Clemson is basically as good as Kansas. Somehow, though, Kansas has 10 wins over the current field to Clemson's one win. That can't be discounted. And the Jayhawks are playing right next door in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kansas by 4
Power rating: spread
Kansas by 4.0
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
A rare case where Vegas and the Strength power rating match exactly. We didn't give any consideration for Kansas playing closer to home or they would diverge the normal amount.
Bottom line: We were going to discount Clemson's win over Auburn—we still do—and recognize that Kansas is due for a good game, possibly a blowout win of their own over Clemson. That may happen, but they haven't shown any indication yet in the tournament of going to the next level, and no matter how much of Clemson's last game was the other team's fault, it was still a great performance and they will gain confidence from it. The thing that really surprised me was looking at the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers and how close they were. We originally had Kansas going to the Elite Eight but this one is too intriguing of an upset. I'm sure it will be a popular pick due to the way both teams have been playing in the tournament so far, but there are other reasons to go with the Tigers.
Final prediction: Clemson 73, Kansas 69
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.