Clemson getting attention as it gets ready for Kansas

The Sports Xchange
Photo by Capri23auto/Pixabay
Photo by Capri23auto/Pixabay

OMAHA, Neb. -- The basketball coach at Clemson is making a name for himself, even though his name is not recognized in households quite like his three counterparts at the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

As the fifth-seeded Tigers (25-9) prepared for a Sweet 16 clash against Kansas (27-7) on Friday, Brad Brownell took note of the other coaches in the regional, which also includes a Duke-Syracuse matchup.


"Nobody is going to know who I am," Brownell said. "It's like coaching the ACC. I don't look down at the other end when we're coaching. That's not good for my mental health. I don't worry about looking at Coach K and Bill Self and Jim Boeheim."

Among those Hall of Fame coaches, Mike Krzyzewski has guided Duke to five NCAA titles and 12 Final Four appearances, Self has one national title and two Final Fours with Kansas, and Boeheim one title and five Final Fours with Syracuse. Brownell, meanwhile, has Clemson in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997 after previously coaching Wright State and UNC-Wilmington to tournament appearances.

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"Brad is a terrific coach and he's getting his due like he deserves," Self said. "Everybody's known it for a long time, the guy can coach. They don't make mistakes. You've got to beat them."

Clemson advanced by limiting Auburn to 25.8 percent shooting and points on just 22 of 70 possessions in an 84-53 second-round mismatch. Clemson ranks 18th nationally defending shots, allowing opponents to shoot just 40.4 percent on average.

Three 6-3 guards, junior Marcquise Reed, Gabe DeVoe and Shelton Mitchell, lead the Tigers in scoring with averages of 15.9, 13.7 and 12.3 points, respectively.

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"We've competed in an incredible league," Brownell added. "All season long, it hardens you. You see all kinds of coaching styles, different styles of play. So, to come through that and to make an NCAA Tournament, you feel prepared."

Self, of course, can say the same thing, though some roll their eyes since the Jayhawks' Big 12 dominance is reflected in 14 consecutive league championships. However, the Big 12 advanced four teams to the Sweet 16.

Kansas outlasted Penn and Seton Hall in the first two rounds. Center Udoka Azubuike, a 7-foot sophomore who missed the Jayhawks' championship run in the Big 12 Tournament with an MCL strain, played 22 minutes against Seton Hall and contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Azubuike leads the nation in field goal percentage, making 77.5 percent of his attempts.

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"His attitude has been great and he's matured so much," Self said. "In my opinion he was the most valuable player (against Seton Hall), because if his mind wasn't so right to get healthy that fast, there's no way we would have won that game."

An array of Kansas bombers have combined to average 10 3-point makes per game while shooting 40.3 percent from that range.

The hottest outside threat during the Jayhawks' five-game winning streak has been sophomore guard Malik Newman, who is averaging 22 points during that postseason run on 59 percent shooting from behind the arc.

"With the way (the Kansas staff) coaches players with the four guards and with the big man," said Newman. "I think any one of our starting five always has a chance to go out and get 20-plus. We're always capable of it."

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