OMAHA — Kansas’ most important player is the senior guard Devonte’ Graham. But entering Friday’s round-of-16 matchup against a physical Clemson team, the Jayhawks’ X factor was the sophomore 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, whose knee injury had kept him out of the Big 12 tournament and limited him in the N.C.A.A. tournament’s first two rounds.
Doubts about whether the 280-pound Azubuike would be at full strength evaporated early as No. 1-seeded Kansas defeated fifth-seeded Clemson, 80-76, in the Midwest Region.
Graham — playing in the tournament’s second weekend for the third straight year — leapt with excitability just before tipoff. But on Kansas’s first possession, it was Azubuike who got the ball.
Several inches taller and considerably heavier than anyone on Clemson’s roster, he maneuvered for an easy basket, the first of his five in the half.