Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Coming Soon

So we have been largely quiet here on the blog since our early exit from the tourney. Its just depressing to lose in the tourney like that and I've just wanted to keep my digital mouth shut for a week or so. But fear not, we are in the works to improve some things around here and will get you up to date on all the latest Spring storylines, baseball news, and recruiting as we roll out some new twists and content. So yeah, stay tuned or something like that...

In sad news Al Skinner was fired at BC. Its always sad to see a bad coach and easy wins leave the conference(but hey we somehow lost to them this year!!).

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Quick Clemson NCAA Post-Mortem

There's an old adage that teams that like to press don't like to be pressed. Yesterday afternoon we observed a more fundamental truism: teams that turn the ball over too much don't like to be pressed. It was pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that Clemson was almost certain to lose to Missouri. Both teams rely primarily on their defensive ability to force turnovers to drive their offensive output, and the Mizzou Tigers simply don't turn the ball over. Yeah, there was a chance our press might cause them problems, but you aren't a top five team at avoiding turnovers for nothing. The advantage was all Missouri going in and they burned us time and time again as we made stupid decisions with the ball. We kept it close with ridiculous, unsustainable 3-point shooting in the first half but when we regressed to the mean in the second half the game was as good as done (felt like the second Maryland game in that respect). Also, if you don't understand the concept of regression to the mean, read this. Its related to baseball but the idea is the same--if the team has a certain "true" level of performance, then given enough time the team will revert to that level regardless of how well they perform over smaller stretches of time. We went 8-11 from 3-point land in the first half, there was no way we were going 16-22 for the game.

I know everyone is down on the players for not playing hard the last ten minutes of the game, but I think there's a reason. Seems to me they new their margin for error was small--they had to keep things even for 40 minutes to try and pull it out at the end because they wouldn't be able to force turnovers or get enough stops in the halfcourt to spark a run (to say nothing of our complete lack of a four-minute offense). Once they were in a hole, they knew they were beaten. Sure, it's not a good reason for not playing hard and it reflects extremely poorly on the coaching staff for their inability to motivate/prepare the team mentally, but there it is.

I've been yelling it as loud as I can from this tiny blog pulpit: turnovers are killing us. This is the worst year for Clemson at turning the ball over since the first season Purnell took over, and it's not even close. There's been a ton of talk around the blogosphere about the lack of an offensive plan for the Tigers and their inability to even execute simple fundamentals. This is undoubtedly true; I won't argue this point. Purnell and his (newly-hired?) assistants need to take a long look at the tapes this offseason to figure out how to improve the halfcourt set. But I would argue that we have an even more fundamental problem: empty possessions from turnover after turnover. Often, we don't even get a chance to setup the halfcourt 'cause Stitt is dribbling the ball off his leg. This is also a more fundamental problem because it isn't going away next season with Stitt as our de facto team leader and ball-handler.

Next season has all of the makings of a bad year for the Tigers, outlined by ClemBen in the post below. We've got a turnover prone "senior leader" point guard blocking and taking playing time from a better player one year his junior (don't even get me started--the last few games of the season should have sealed in everyone's mind that Young is the better player than Stitt now), a lack of an strong inside presence capable of creating a shot, and a guy starting at the two position that would be fighting for playing time at the back end of the bench for a middling SEC team (how many times was Tanner Smith burned off the ball on the perimeter leading to easy points? I give him credit for decent defensive fundamentals, but when he's matched against someone quick and fluid, he's toast). Most of our problems are related to the most fundamental aspects of the game; for example, perimeter players gotta be stronger with the ball and make crisper passes to right part of the player receiving the ball while inside guys need to improve footwork in the post. It's easy to tell Clemson to go out and make up a few nice offensive sets and practice them 1000 times, but we won't get to .500 in the ACC next season without first improving the fundamentals on offense and bringing our turnover count down to a reasonable range.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Clemson Fails Again

Well that was a crap way to end the season, a season I consider a horrible disappointment. We should win the first game in the tourney, and we should get a bye in the ACC tourney. Those are what the standards should be if we are going to be a legit team.

After the way Booker almost won last year's game against Michigan single-handedly I had big expectations but in this game Booker looked sluggish and almost chunky. Lethargic is the word I kept thinking of. His inside game turned into a sissy pout fest when he wasn't getting any calls. And he was getting fouled, make no mistake about it but the whole tourney they have let it be a physical game. OP should have prepared the team better for this game. At the 8 minute mark the guys were self destructing and going into blame mode rather than giving their all.

We should have won, here are my thoughts on why and what to think about going forward.
  • Len Elmore was finally right about something, Tanner Smith is not athletic enough--he can't shoot the three and he turns the ball over a whole lot. He should not be a major part of the strategy moving forward. Even his defense was suspect in this game.
  • Potter always sucked. Glad he is gone.
  • Booker started the year trying to become an NBA player and ended up forgetting how to play college ball.
  • The freshman class disappointed me. Johnson has shown flashes, along with Booker but its going to take awhile. Milt was a big disappointment, not ready for the physicality of the college game.
  • Stitt is still prone to turning the ball over, dribbles loosely (no handles), and no one can pass into the post.
  • Booker Jr. was a better post player at the beginning of the season--OP can't teach offense.
  • In the game our offense consisted of standing around. We didn't even try to screen or run any sets. The inbounds plays consisted of throwing it to the corner so that the player could get trapped. We need a complete overhaul on our offensive philosophy.
  • We lack toughness.
  • We have one recruit coming in Marcus Thornton. We missed out on tons of recruits like Eric Smith and Jason Morris. We have no one coming in to save the team--we actually have no one coming in..
So the future looks somewhat bleak. Grant has improved but isn't a great post presence as a go to guy. Young is the lone bright spot, and I think Bobo deserves a legitimate chance to develop. What I am really frustrated about is the lack of player development on offense. We regress in a lot of areas and I want legit improvement. It seems that Shaka Smart was the offense and player development guy, as well as a recruiter. I think Purnell should shake up his staff...

Clemson Already Struggling

We are about six/seven minutes into the game and Clemson is already failing. Tanner Smith just threw the ball to the other team, the offense is just five guys standing around. Potter gets two stupid fouls--one just running into the forward on offense. Oh and Stitt is dribbling so loosely I could steal the ball...

Things got to change and quick...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Gauging Clemson's NCAA Odds on Paper

Every year, I run a simulation of the NCAA tournament based on's offensive and defensive effeciency ratings. I went over the methodology in some detail last year, so I won't cover it again. I'm no professional when it comes to these things, it's just something I do every year for fun. Like last year, I'll share what the simulation says regarding Clemson's chances of advancing into each round, alongside the 2008 and 2009 tournaments. Each number represents the percentage of times that Clemson reached a given round out of a million simulations. Keep in mind, this method is based only on the stats--only a part of the story in basketball. It doesn't take into account, for example, how teams match up in terms of strengths and weaknesses. As a result, Clemson ends up with a much better chance of advancing past Missouri based on statistics alone than I think is actually warranted when looking at the actual matchups, which I touched on briefly in the last post.

Clemson's odds of reaching the last two rounds ends up closely mirroring last year, but reaching the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 is a considerably more difficult task as we are up against a much stronger slate of teams. And how about those odds in 2008? Pretty painful to ponder what could of been, given that gift of a second-round potential matchup with Vanderbilt. I haven't seen odds anywhere close to that good for a 5 seed in the last three years...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Initial Thoughts on NCAA Selection/Tourney

In an effort to pack the first round with as many unnecessary subplots as possible, the selection committee is pitting Clemson against Missouri in the "Buffalo Battle of the Full-court Presses (TM)". I think Clemson as a seven seed is a bit of a stretch, they probably fit slightly better as an 8/9 seed while Missouri is probably feeling a bit puzzled they were selected as a 10 seed, I had them pegged as closer to a 7/8 seed. In that light, Clemson vs. Missouri probably makes the most sense when viewed as the fifth 8 vs. 9 game, with West Virginia as the fifth #1 seed.

It's interesting to get a second potential shot at playing WVU. I was pretty excited at the beginning of the season about the possibility of playing them in the second round of the 76 Classic, before Texas A&M handled us pretty easily in the opener. Despite the fact that WVU doesn't turn the ball over much, I don't think that would be a terrible matchup for us. Unfortunately, though, I don't share ClemBen's optimism below about the Missouri game. Without looking too deeply at the stats or tape, my initial impressions give us about a 15% chance at winning. As everyone in TigerTown knows by now, Mike Anderson's Mizzou Tigers play the entire length of the court just like Oliver Purnell. But don't get caught up in the "two teams playing the same style of basketball" talk. While they have a lot of similarities, it ain't hard to find differences, either. The most important difference: Missouri is reasonably good at holding on to the ball whereas Clemson is reasonably bad at holding on to the ball. In a matchup of two defenses that specialize in producing turnovers, which one do you think has the upper hand? This also explains why they ended up #13 on my "Matchups of Doom" list last week. In fact, I'd take it a step further and say this matchup is actually one of the worst possible for Clemson (outside of the Richmond Spiders), because almost all of the teams above Missouri are in the 1-5 range and we weren't going to play them in the first round anyway.

Now I'll bring up a personal anecdote to try and support why I have a lot of doubts about our chances against Missouri. I try to avoid these 'cause personal anecdotes are too often used as blunt instruments to try and bludgeon someone into believing your point-of-view ("but I was there, I saw what it was like...", etc.), but I think the stats back me up strongly in this case. Back in 2004, I happened to be vacationing in Hawaii and got hooked up with some tickets to watch Clemson play UAB in the first round of the Rainbow Classic (speaking of which, you were there ClemBen--I can't believe you've forgotten...hahaha). Clemson was in its second year with Oliver Purnell at the helm, and UAB in its third season under Mike Anderson, fresh off a surprise NCAA sweet sixteen run. It was a fun first half to watch, lots of fast play with both teams really hitting each other with the press, getting turnovers and occasionally run-outs. The second half, however, UAB came out strong and didn't let up--completely burying Clemson. I came away from the game with one impression: UAB won because ultimately they took better care of the basketball. Looking over the stats from the past eight years, I don't see anything that dissuades me from this initial impression. Mike Anderson's teams are traditionally strong in two areas: forcing turnovers and not yielding any turnovers. For whatever reason, to the increasingly maddening perspective of the Clemson fanbase, Oliver Purnell hasn't been as concerned with the latter. Its reached unbelievable heights this season, which is by far the worst season in terms of giving away the ball since the first year Purnell took over.

So unless we suddenly decide to stop giving away our possessions for no good reason, in all likelihood Oliver Purnell and the Tigers are looking at another first round exit. There are a few other wrinkles to the matchup (most of them favoring Missouri) and I'll try to go more into detail later in the week. But right now, some other quick, initial thoughts on the Tourney:

1) The selection committee didn't do a good job selecting the seeds, at least not as good as last year's effort. Not impressed at all.
2) No Elizabeth, you are not getting any hints from the website about which teams to pick (or not pick) this year. Your "victory" from last year is still under review by the rules committee, by the way...
3) While I don't agree some of the selection committee's seeds, I really don't have any problems with the Virginia Tech decision. Let's not forget that in addition to having a crazy weak out-of-conference schedule, they also had an incredibly weak in-conference schedule. The only downside to the decision is we have to listen to Seth Greenberg's annual ESPN whine-fest. I will personally send a $25 dollar check to any reporter who poses this simple question to Seth Greenberg: given VT's recent NCAA snubs and the consistent criticism accompanying these snubs regarding a weak out-of-conference schedule, why was Temple the only non-conference team you scheduled that could reasonably be considered a preseason favorite to get into the NCAA tournament? That's the only question needed to make the whining go away.
4) From Greenberg's Twitter feed, just before the selections were announced:
"Still holding out hope! Sad day for the ACC if a 10-6 third place team doesn't
get a bid".
First of all, it says a lot about your own mindset if you have to "hold out hope" after winning 10 conference games. Second, don't cry for the ACC--we got six teams into the Tournament, including the team that finished 7-9 in conference play. This doesn't look bad for the ACC, it reflects poorly on your program and its utter inability to construct a halfway decent tournament resume.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Clemson versus Missouri

So the brackets just came out and Clemson scores a 7 seed in the East versus none other than fellow pressing team Missouri. That is a tough match-up for us although Mizzou faded towards the end of the year. Now I don't have too much of a problem with Missouri but getting West Virginia as the 2 seed is really bad news. They are easily the top second seed after winning the Big East Champs. Wish we could have drawn Villanova for some pay back. I am happy we play the 19th, Buffalo is kinda far and cold so I won't be there, which is unfortunate.

I will be happy with this season if we can win the first game. Do that and hopefully we can move on and Booker can find his rhythm. At least with Missouri we can play up tempo and not get stuck in our crummy half court but we have struggled against the press ourselves this year. I don't think we handle the press well and we certainly have turned it over way too much all season, especially in our last two games. It certainly could have been worse--I am glad to not be in an 8/9 match-up. Come on Tigers, give OP at least one NCAA tourney win...

One last thing I have been meaning to post about--How is that 'Seed of Doubt' now Ron Morris?? What a hack reporter, again nothing to back up his opinions but I would say a 7 seed is a pretty ringing endorsement of the season despite an early tourney loss. We weren't even close to being on the bubble even with Houston and Washington winning conference tournaments and UTEP and Utah State losing. Why is that you may ask Ron? Its because of RPI and SOS--statistics you should look into.

Although Virginia Tech did have the worst OOC schedule in recent memory 10-6 in the ACC is a stinging rejection. Another tough rejection for Seth Greenberg.

ACC Tournament: NC State vs. Clemson Recap

Needed a couple of days to calm down after that lost, hence the lack of a post. Probably the worst all-around performance for the Tigers since the Boston College game, except this time the offense was wretched throughout the entire game instead of the defense. A few bullet points, then we'll shift focus to Clemson's upcoming first-round exit:
  • It was interesting, I thought Clemson came out and played with the requisite energy but they just weren't there mentally. No excuse for that many mistakes.
  • The first half they couldn't even get set in the offense 'cause they kept giving the ball to NC State on stupid passes. Poor spacing was partly to blame; later it escalated as everyone started getting frustrated with their own bad play.
  • As bad as the offense played in the first half, I thought the halfcourt defense was pretty solid. NC State made a series of ridiculously difficult shots despite good defense in the first half. Without that, Clemson could very well have been leading at halftime. Of course, the defense played worse in the second half which was partially offset by Clemson tamping down the inexplicable turnovers.
  • T. Booker made a lot of crucial mistakes and the FT shooting performance was inexcusable. A fitting end to a dreadful career of ACC Tourney games.
  • The clock management was inexcusable down the stretch. We've commented on the Tigers' inability to play with any urgency as the clock is winding down. This is squarely on the coaching staff. They have to have a set of understood plays they can execute with one hand tied behind their collective back when we're behind by 3 with 2:00 minutes to go.
  • I would have liked to see Purnell employ the foul 'em with 4:00 minutes to go strategy that worked well at FSU. NC State isn't a great foul shooting team and while we weren't exactly knocking the threes down, we had a chance to shoot down NC State from behind with their league-average FG% defense.
  • Tanner Smith. I hope he does nothing but practice a freakin' jump shot in the offseason, because he can't drive to the hoop and he can't hit the three. He's had his moments this season on defense (particularly in the halfcourt) but it's barely enough to justify a roster spot next season, much less his starter status.

That's enough, before I say something I'll regret. But hey, it's Selection Sunday, and Clemson's name is going to be called. Things could be much worse. Might as well ask, even though there's not much time left: which #1/#2 seed would you rather be grouped with? My vote is for Kentucky: they're (slightly) overrated largely due to playing in the dreadful SEC and if USuCk can beat them, I like our chances.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Crap at the Half

Well this half is another microcosm for why we can't achieve that elusive elite or even top 25 status this year. NO 3 point shooting. Potter has been so wide open and just bricking--not even close. Tanner shot an airball. Young has had some poor shot selection. Booker has become unable to drive and score with his back to the basket. How many turnovers can we have??

Another pathetic offensive output. 21 points?? We are playing good D but still have an occasional breakdown where someone isn't rotating. The real problem is we can't get out and run. No forced turnovers means ugly offensive sets. Purnell needs to hire a young offensive mind who can recruit. Lastly FT shooting has once again become an eyesore--Booker are you kidding 1-6??. Maybe a loss wouldn't be that bad because at least we would have some time to work on the fundamentals again. Guys look confused, Booker throwing it away--not an appealing combination. My only suggestion is to get Stitt driving more but he is so loose with the ball and always liable to turn it over that I wouldn't rely on it.

What really concerns me is that we have no recruits of any note coming in aside from Marcus Thorton. These guys really need to develop in the offseason for Clemson to remain relevant...

ACC Tournament Preview Round 1: NC State vs. Clemson

NC State vs. Clemson, 03/11, ~9:00pm, Greensboro Coliseum

I agree with DrB at the end of this post, a win tonight should lock us into a seven seed. On the other hand, a loss probably drops us into the 8/9 matchup. As a result, the stakes are actually a bit bigger than they might seem because in most years there is a fairly substantial step down in talent between #1 seeds and #2 seeds. I would rate Kansas and Syracuse as shoe-ins for #1 seeds at this point, and the difference between playing one of those teams and playing some of the potential two seeds like Ohio State, West Virginia, or Purdue would be pretty large. Of course, while this is all fun to contemplate, it depends on getting a favorable matchup in round one and taking care of business against the Wolfpack tomorrow.

NC State struggled to a 5-11 finish in the ACC and 17-14 finish overall. On paper, they're a league average to a little below league average in just about every statistical category. Their most conspicuous weaknesses are probably an inability to force turnovers and an inability to keep opposing teams off the offensive glass. As a result, NC State is no push-over. I know alot of people see the near-collapse at Raleigh earlier this season as a direct result of losing Demontez Stitt in the first half. While losing Stitt certainly didn't help, I think it's ultimately a pretty lazy assessment. It glosses over the fact that we got whipped on the offensive boards all game long (not something that would be affected by losing Stitt) by a team that doesn't play particularly well on the offensive glass. In fairness, we also were unable to force any turnovers, which is probably an area where we missed Stitt more.

What I'm trying to say is that while we don't match up poorly with NC State, we don't particularly match up well against them, either. I think we will need a consistent effort from T. Booker and the rest of the inside players and we will have to get some breaks in the pressure defense if we want to run away with the game. Unfortunately, Sidney Lowe had the cognizance to limit the playing time of the turnover-prone Javier Gonzalez to ten minutes against the Clemson press. Outside of Gonzalez, the Wolfpack actually do a pretty good job handling the basketball.

Hopefully Clemson comes out taking the challenge seriously and doesn't play like last year when they moped around as if they deserved a first round bye. I think this is a game Clemson should win on a neutral court at least 3 out of 4 times, but that depends on whether they actually show up ready to play. GO TIGERS!!!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

NCAA Matchups of Doom: 2010 Edition

Thought I would do this again this year: it's just a slightly-better-than-arbitrary way to try and pick out the teams that would be among the most difficult matchups for Clemson in the first round. I described the "methodology" last year, but basically I pick a couple of statistical areas that I think gave us match-up problems over the course of the season and apply a weighted ranking of teams that are strong in those areas. This year I chose the ability of a team to avoid the turnover and their ability to limit a team's effective FG%. The reasoning: the former takes away our primary strength on defense which has essentially driven our relatively high defensive ranking and the latter renders an already weak offense completely punchless. I weighted the former twice as much as the latter. Here's the list of teams I'm hoping won't align opposite Clemson on Selection Sunday:

Some names of teams that we struggled against are up there: Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech. Also some interesting names that I've seen bandied about as potential 7-10 seeds (the seed we'll likey be facing): Missouri, UTEP, Utah State, Richmond, St. Mary's, UNLV, Northern Iowa. Based on this, I'd say Richmond would be the worst/most plausible matchup of doom for 2010.

Monday, 8 March 2010

T Booker Is First Team All-ACC

That's right its Scheyer, Delaney, Greivious Vazqueaez, Singler, and Booker. Smith is on the second team. I think this is about right actually--I don't think Aminu deserved it although he took it to a lethargic Booker at times. Just thought I would pass on the word. Will post a link when I find one--silly slow local media...

Wake Forest Recap

Wake Forest 70, Clemson 65

Not much time here, but thought I would chime in quickly. Clemson's season just took its latest frustrating turn at the worst possible time. Wake Forest was definitely a team we were capable of beating, and I came away thinking if only we had performed up to the median ability we have shown this season we would have squeaked out a five point win. The fact we only lost be five underscores Wake's weakness as a team. Instead, we're stuck in the first round of the tournament. Assuming we can avoid the "we shouldn't be forced to play in round one" attitude that sunk us last year and beat NC State, we will be saddled with a bruising round 2 game against FSU with tired legs.

How did we manage to lose? I think it was a combination of underperformance in key areas and poor in-game decision-making.

  • We were outworked on the boards. I was particularly frustrated with our seeming inability to grab offensive rebounds in the second half despite numerous chances. We needed to perform well in an area that Wake Forest has struggled in this year and we couldn't come up with a strong enough performance.
  • Our halfcourt defense was lax all night and the full court press wasn't much better, although I give Wake some credit for handling the ball well behind the halfcourt line.
  • Tanner Smith should not be taking shots down the stretch if the game is even remotely close.

I still think Clemson is in the NCAA tournament. It would be a ridiculous snub if they were left off. Unfortunately, we are likely bound for the 8/9 seed of death. The odds of getting Oliver Purnell's first NCAA win stand at around 50%, and the odds of getting into the sweet sixteen will be somewhere between 0.5 and 2.0%.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Wake Forest Preview

Clemson vs. Wake Forest, 03/07, 6:00pm, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Yesterday's results make this an all-or-nothing event for the Tigers. A win gives us the three seed by merit of a better combined head-to-head record (2-1) in the tiebreaker with Virginia Tech (1-1) and FSU (1-2). A loss drops us all the way to the six seed, as we would be tied alone with the Wake Forest team that just beat us. I don't think anyone can understate the importance of this game. I honestly don't think Clemson has much of a chance at an ACC tournament run given that we match up so poorly this season with the league's best teams, Maryland and Duke. But a couple of wins and a good showing in a third game has the potential to vault us into a six seed in the NCAA tournament--as semi-arbitrary as the ACC tie-breaking system is, don't underestimate the value of the tag "third-best team in the ACC".

About the actual game. As I've mentioned in the last previews, Clemson closes out three straight games against opponents with a strikingly similar general profile: turnover-prone, reasonably-poor shooting, and offensive-glass dominant on offense with a well above-average defense driven by effective FG% against numbers that are the envy of teams across the nation. In fact, Wake ranks #1 in the country in effective FG% against percentage. This is why I generally feel that WF poses the toughest matchup for the Tigers out of the final three teams--unlike FSU they defend the 2- and 3-point shot equally well and they are also better at holding onto the ball relative to both FSU and GT. Despite this, it's fair to see Clemson as the mild favorite given their performance in the last two games, and their additional victory over FSU earlier this season.

Clemson also has other factors working in their favor in this game. On defense, WF does not defend against the offensive rebound very well. They also, unlike FSU or to a lesser extent GT, do not force turnovers. Finally, Wake Forest is considerably worse than either FSU or GT at shooting the ball on offense. I think this game will come down to who does a better job keeping the other team off the offensive glass and who converts more second-chance opportunities around the rim.

I'm hopeful that Wake, mathematically eliminated from the first-round bye and on the tail of a four game losing streak now starting to threaten their NCAA tournament plans, will come out dispirited. Unfortunately, senior night has a way of reinvigorating teams. Clemson will need to absorb the emotional high that Wake runs out, calmly reminding themselves they are the better team. I expect they can then start slowly asserting their will on the Demon Deacons, hopefully aided by the voluntary unraveling of Dino's squad as they see their post-season start slipping away...


Saturday, 6 March 2010

ACC Tourney Byes, on the Line Today

Haven't written anything since last Wednesday, but the ACC tournament picture is a lot clearer now. If FSU loses today (regardless of what VT does) we can punch our ACC first round bye without hitting the floor on Sunday. Unfortunately, I fully expect FSU to grab a road win at Miami. I think UNC's dramatic single-season fall (as an aside, why didn't anyone see this coming? Everyone just expected the freshmen to fill in and play like the UNC freshmen we're accustomed to seeing?) is the only reason why people aren't talking about Miami failing to live up to expectations once again.

The argument for an FSU win is that it will motivate Clemson to get out on the floor and beat Wake Forest, which will help our NCAA seeding (really quickly: 8/9 right now, 7/8 with a win). I can see the rationale for this; there's certainly a non-zero chance that Clemson suffers a letdown and gets handed a beatdown on Senior Night in Winston-Salem in the event of an FSU loss (Wake's not a bad team, after all...) On the other hand, to paraphrase wise man, "De-fault" are the two sweetest words in the English language. I won't be losing any sleep tonight worrying about a letdown if FSU falters in Miami.

On that note, for one day only, let's go 'Canes!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Georgia Tech Recap 2

Clemson 91, Georgia Tech 80

Congratulations to Oliver Purnell and his staff for securing a third consecutive NCAA birth. I can't imagine this season went as planned, but through several shrewd coaching adjustments and incremental player improvement we have gotten gradually better, and just in the nick of time. I questioned whether we were really a better offensive team after running off three straight wins at home in February, but decent-to-strong performances against good defenses like Maryland, GT, and yes, even FSU have me convinced that execution (if not necessarily gameplan) has improved at least slightly. Also, give credit to the conditioning of Clemson. We've heard about Clemson's superior conditioning over the years, but I've been largely unconvinced. But last night, despite working on a day's fewer rest and playing a third game in seven days, we actually looked less tired than GT during key stretched in the second half. If this carries over to the ACC Tournament it could serve as a significant advantage.

Now, time to rain a little on everyone's parade. Not to belittle great performances on Senior Night by Trevor Booker and David Potter, but I would be careful to read Clemson's performance as a true indicator of their current ability. While GT is a solid defensive team and anytime you put 91 points on an ACC team its reason to celebrate, GT didn't bring their 'A' defensive game last night. I haven't seen that many good three-point looks since maybe the Presbyterian game. We also didn't look sharp on defense, giving up way too many good looks after penetration that was coming way to easy for GT. To their credit, GT also knocked down tough shots all night long. The first half was a nightmare on the boards for Clemson, but one of the reasons we pulled away in the second half was because we turned the tables, closing down the offensive rebounds for GT while picking up a few of our own. We've got to do a better job against Wake Forest.

I'll wait until tonight's games are over before commenting on our chances for an ACC Tournament first-round bye, but in tonight's games I'll be rooting for NC State and Wake Forest.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Georgia Tech Preview 2

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson, 03/02, 8:00pm, Littlejohn

I feel like I could just re-write the FSU preview, replacing FSU's name with Tech and that would leave everyone with a pretty good idea of what to expect in the game. In fact, all of Clemson's final three teams fit the same general profile: tall teams that play excellent defense, primarily driven by holding the opposing team to a low effective FG%. None of the teams feature a world-beating offense; their offense is held up in part by their ability to snatch up offensive rebounds and is dragged down by an abysmal turnover rate.

If we look a little more closely at GT vs. FSU, Tech is a slightly better offensive team and slightly worse defensive team. GT is considerably better at defending the three but not quite as good as the incomparable FSU defense against the two. On offense, they shoot the ball better primarily because of their three-point shooting, which relies quite a bit on freshman Brian Oliver, shooting around 41%.

All in all, I like this matchup slightly better than the FSU matchup for the Tigers. We have a better chance to score inside with Booker (our strength on offense) and we should still force plenty of turnovers on defense. Given that we nearly pulled off the upset in Atlanta earlier in the season and that we have played well against teams with this profile, on paper this is a game that Clemson should be considered moderate favorites.

But I'm too busy worrying about external factors to take any comfort. Clemson is playing their third game in seven days and second game in three days. The game on Sunday was an absolute bruiser in which they kept their pressure defense on for the entire 40 minutes. In order to beat GT, they'll need a comparable effort on defense, pushing the fullcourt pressure all night long to force as many turnovers as possible. I'm not sure they'll have the legs for it. On top of that, GT is (perhaps unfairly) playing for their post-season lives and maybe for their coach's job. (As an aside, I'm surprised there hasn't been more Hewitt/hotseat talk. I thought he was given another season because of the recruiting class he was bringing in. But outside of the blogs, I haven't seen much on the subject from traditional media. Maybe everyone is just tired of talking about it year after year.) GT is only coming off three days' rest, but it was their first game in a week. They will be fresher and they will be ready to play.

I think Clemson really needs to avoid a slog this time, they won't have the fortitude to pull the game out at the end like they did in Tallahassee. They have to find offense in the early going, build something of a lead, and hope that they can hold off GT as their defense falters along with their legs in the last ten minutes. GO TIGERS!!!

Monday, 1 March 2010

FSU Recap 2

Clemson 53, Florida St. 50

I said at the end of the preview that if we didn't make our three-point shots, couldn't force turnovers at a reasonable clip, and couldn't get offensive rebounds we'd be in for a slog. If anyone was confused about the definition of a "slog", that was not only a prototypical slog, it was something close to the paragon of a slog. Check out the rate of scoring (or lack thereof) in the chart:

And we managed to win. I'm still not sure how. It's strange, but I didn't think the defense was anything special. They were solid, but not spectacular. A lot of times FSU looked as lost running their halfcourt offense as we did, they missed makeable shots, and a lot of their turnovers were of the unforced variety. No, I think the game was somehow won on the offensive side of the ball. I don't often applaud individual efforts, mainly 'cause the college game ain't the same as the NBA game, but tonight I'll give big helpings of credit to Trevor Booker for finding ways to get close to the basket and to Andre Young for finding ways to get open at key points in the game (and draining a halfcourt jumper). It's particularly impressive because FSU stuck to more or less the same strategy as game 1, collapsing on Trevor Booker. In this game they seemed to be rolling over a man from the basket side to double team instead of collapsing in on Booker from the three-point line. This lessened the number of good looks we got around the perimeter. Normally Booker is still good at finding the open man in those situations, but against FSU's inside height he fired quite a few errant passes, particularly in the early going. But he settled down and ended played one of the best offensive games of his career against one of the better defenses in the country.

This win also opens the door to a first-round ACC bye, something no one in their right mind was talking about a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news here ClemBen, Clemson basically still needs to win both of their remaining games or hope for a bunch of other things to happen if they split their final two games. FSU has the upper hand right now with the easiest schedule by far of the five teams vying for the last two spots. If they were to win out, they would finish 10-6 and leave four teams vying for one slot.

The way I see it now, barring any strange upsets (like VT losing at home to NC State or something), if we win both of the final two games we grab the three seed (if VT loses to GT) or the four seed (if VT beats GT). If we finish 9-7, I only see two longshot scenarios. If we beat GT instead of WF, we also need FSU to beat WF and lose to Miami and GT to beat VT. That would give us the four seed. If we beat WF instead of GT, we need WF to beat FSU, FSU to beat Miami, and VT to beat GT. That would also give us the four seed.

There's probably a few other wild scenarios in there, but those are the most realistic I'm seeing right now. Simply put, Clemson still needs to win out. Lots of strange things could still happen, but the losses to VT and GT coupled with FSU's likely 10-6 finish put us in a relatively weak position because our two victories over FSU don't mean anything in any tie-breakers if they finish above us.

Lastly, it's time to update the list from the beginning of yesterday's post:

Number of games Clemson has led by 10 or more points and lost this season: 2 (Illinois, Maryland)

Number of games Clemson has trailed by 10 or more points and won this season: 2 (Butler, FSU)

I don't know if a team that can rally as often as "collapse" can really be labeled as a team prone to the collapse, but just so everyone is on the same page with the numbers...


A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.