Clemson Men's Basketball look for the upset of Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen

The Tigers are one of the lowest seeds still remaining in a chalky NCAA Sweet Sixteen and they are looking to extend their run against Caleb Love and the Wildcats.

Clemson Tigers guard Joseph Girard III celebrates with guard Chase Hunter
Clemson Tigers guard Joseph Girard III celebrates with guard Chase Hunter / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a long week if you are excited about Clemson Men’s Basketball’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen, but the day has finally come.

The Tigers will tip off at 7:09 PM against the Arizona Wildcats. The game is part of the West Region of the bracket and will be played in the Arena in Los Angeles, California (formerly known as the Staples Center).

Arizona is currently a 7.5-point favorite over Clemson. The over/under total for the game is set at 151.5. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor has Clemson with only a 20.6% chance of victory against the Wildcats. None of these odds are a surprise, as Clemson is the 6-seed in the region while Arizona is one of the favorites as the 2-seed.

Outside of fellow ACC member NC State (the 11-seed in the South Region), the Tigers are the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament.

The winner between Clemson and Arizona will face the winner of North Carolina and Alabama in the Elite Eight on Saturday.

The Wildcats were 8-3 against Quad 1 competition this season, compared to 5-5 for the Tigers. They are led in scoring by guard Caleb Love with 18.1 points per game. Love began his career at North Carolina before transferring after the 2022-23 season. Love also averages 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for Arizona.

The Wildcats are led in rebounds by Oumar Ballo, a 7’-0’ center from Mali. He averages 10.0 rebounds per game. They are led in assists by senior guard Pelle Larsson with 4.1 per game.

For the Tigers to emerge victorious against Arizona, they will need to play with the same intensity and effort that they displayed in their wins against New Mexico and Baylor. More importantly, PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin will need to remain out of foul trouble. Given the presence of Ballo, the Tigers will need a big body to defend him and challenge for rebounds.

With regards to Love, the best defense could be a great offense, which cues up Joe Girard and Chase Hunter. The Tigers' fortunes often pivot on the shooting percentage of their starting guards.

Lastly, Clemson needs their bench to make an impact when they enter the game. RJ Godfrey did just that against Baylor.

The Tigers have played well in the first two rounds of the Big Dance, but with all due respect to New Mexico and Baylor, Arizona is a different beast. If Clemson keeps their momentum, then I expect this to be a competitive game that the Wildcats will likely win.

I’ll take Arizona minus the points simply because I expect the margin to grow at the end of the game due to free throws for the Wildcats. I’ll defer slightly towards the over on the point total.