Thursday, 22 April 2010

Some Final CJ Spiller Lovin'

Here is some Pre-Draft CJ loving. Make us proud!! He better be a top 15 pick!

I am also hoping that Sapp goes higher than the third was he even practicing last year?? Shouldn't have started until the third game of the season...

Conner should go in the 5-6th round and hopefully Austin, Butler and Palmer sneak in as well as Chancellor...Go Tigers!!

Oh and if you want to go to South Carolina, you don't get drafted higher...its just not true...

EDIT: Are you ready to be a Buffalo Bills fan??? Wow, did not expect that one, Seattle, you blew it...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Brownell: Purnell Hiring Redux?

Haven't dropped in on the blog much lately and in the process largely missed the hoopla surrounding Terry Don Phillips' 7-day rejection tour. In the end, however, out of all the names giving TDP's overtures serious consideration, Brad Brownell is probably the best we could have gotten. My sense is this reasonably good pick had more to do with luck than due diligence on TDP's part given the other names that were being floated around. On the other hand, the similarities between the Brownell hiring and the Purnell hiring can't be readily dismissed.

What did TDP see in Brownell? My general feeling for a program on Clemson's level is the hungry mid-major coach makes a better pick than the a relatively big name coach with a history of fringey success looking for another venue (think Tubby Smith, Al Skinner, Herb Sendak). The reasoning is simple--for a program that's still trying to build a basketball reputation in an elite conference, its better to get someone who will give you an immediate strategic advantage over the other coaches. This gives the program a chance for immediate expanded media exposure and gives the coach at least a couple of years of being automatically competitive in conference games as teams are forced to adjust. All of this increases recruiting capabilities and fan interest. A name coach might result in an automatic increase in the recruiting profile of a school, but impact is short-lived if the coach offers nothing new to the conference strategy-wise and is fighting to consistently reach .500. The big drawback, of course, is if the coach sees lots of success, he will likely jump to a bigger program in around five years or so. Its not necessarily a way to build a permanent reputation for basketball excellence, but on the other hand I think it can be argued that the days of building a powerhouse from the ground up, except in exceedingly rare circumstances, are all but over.

At any rate, my sense is this probably aligns somewhat with TDP's reasoning as it is consistent with both men's basketball coach hirings. Purnell was cut from the same mold, a coach with an atypical strategy bringing Clemson that helped us be competitive immediately in the ACC (well, at least relative to what Clemson is largely accustomed to...), energized the fanbase, increased media exposure, and ultimately raised our recruiting profile in the area.

So what does Brownell bring to the table strategy-wise? I only have time right now to look at some general properties from Kenpom:

All the rankings are positions within the Brownell's previous conferences. When looking at Clemson I have just used Division I rankings since Clemson should perform on a level similar to the other top 80 or so teams in "elite" conferences, but I think this approach is a bit more fair for looking at midmajor type teams as it puts coaches and teams on relatively the same footing as far as talent goes. The chart plots both offensive and defensive efficiencies and we can definitely see Brownell is a defensive-minded coach. But what I want to draw attention to is the tempo line in yellow. In the seven years for which data is available, Brownell's teams have rated dead last in adjusted tempo (meaning his teams play at a snail's pace) in five of the years. In 2006, he was 10 out of 12 in the newly-expanded Colonial League and in the 2007 he was coaching a bunch of players for the first time at Wright State. This style will undoubtedly contrast starkly with other styles in the ACC, although the Virginia Cavs notably slowed down a lot in Tony Bennett's first season.

Butler showed this year in the NCAA tournament that possession-centric basketball can be successful employed as a disruptive strategy against top programs, even if you need to keep the Maalox close at hand 'cause of all the nailbiting games. My initial impression is that the first year transitioning over to Brownell's system could be difficult for the Tigers: one key element absolutely required by this style of attack is discipline on offense. Brownell will have fits implementing this style of basketball with guards turning the ball over every third to fourth possession.

From briefly looking at the parallels in the Brownell/Purnell hirings, I think the hiring of Brownell likely signals a continuation of recent history. We're looking at a guy who can bring a disruptive strategy to the ACC and win some games, but disciplined and well-coached teams capable of exploiting weaknesses in the scheme will beat us regularly. To be sure, Brownell has the advantage of inheriting a much more skilled group of players than Purnell did, but he is still tasked with making them fit into his system and I'm not convinced our players are particularly well-suited for this transition. I'll delve deeper into the statistics to try and address this last point in some coming blogposts, but right now I'd say best case scenario we continue in the coming years as a slightly above average team in the ACC. Could be worse, but I think everyone was hoping for something better.

And yeah, looking at that chart, if you liked Purnell's middling offensive squads, you've got a lot to look forward to with Brownell! I'm not exactly sure where the reputation for being a good X/O coach comes from, but it ain't showing up in the statistical offensive profiles...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Tigers Pick Up Solid TE Commit

Eric MacLain, a Rivals 250, committed to Clemson today. Here is some limited video of his work at the Under Armor camp but it was really after that camp as he slimmed down and was really impressive at the VTO camp did he start to turn heads. He has a surprising quick burst and pretty good footwork considering he is 6'5" 245 lbs. He is a smart kid and a worker--he plays basketball and I think will just continue to improve his hands and routes. He had been committed to Tennessee but had been looking at Virginia Tech, Duke, and Penn State. He said in his recruitment that a family atmosphere was important and a program on the rise. Good job coaching staff, I think we got not only a great player but a really good kid too. Welcome Eric!!

If we can land Jay Rome you can rename us TE U for the present cause I think we will have three potential NFL players on the roster. Eric and Jay would be a sick two tight end set.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Don't Beat Those Who Like To See Duke Beaten

I hope nothing like this ever comes to Clemson. No fan deserves or (human being for that matter) deserves to be beaten while in the defenseless fetal position. Cops deserve the respect they are owed but these bad apples reflect poorly on the entire law enforcement profession. This makes my blood boil because if Clemson had beaten Duke I would have been skipping in the street. Shoot if I was there I would have too...who wouldn't be happy seeing Singler lose(even to Greivis)??

Monday, 12 April 2010

Looks like Brad Brownell

I was going to do a multi-part series on TDP's train wreck of a search committee but I ended up in the ER over the weekend, complete with Desmondesque cat scan (Lost reference), but as I came to today it seems that Jeff Capel and Scott Drew turned down offers to be the next coach as well as Mississippi State coach Stansbury. Not getting a sniff from Capel and Drew really sucks--I don't think Capel is that great an X's and O's coach but would have been a high profile coach to salvage the wreckage and Drew would have been a great hire to me. I think a lot of the negativity surrounding him is sour grapes and his hiring of some AAU summer league people to staff positions but whatever--he turned us down.

I think hiring Stansbury would have been a step backwards. He can recruit pretty well but has had above average teams in the SEC and not been able to deliver down the stretch. The teams he has coached have been loaded with talent at times but I just don't see him doing much better in the ACC and taking us to the next level.

Other coaches interviewed were Jacksonville's Cliff Warren who is a Paul Hewitt protege. I think I'll pass, he has built a respectable program there after five years but sorry maybe after the jump to a mid-major or more sustained winning. Same goes for the Wofford coach Mike Young who I have great respect for but don't think has shown enough to merit a jump to the ACC just yet. His teams play hard and are well coached (Wofford also doesn't support the bball program nearly as much as it should) but it has taken awhile for him to build to this level. I would not feel confident with him taking the reigns.

Blaine Taylor is an interesting candidate to me. I like the way his ODU teams play, good enough to make it to the second round of the tournament this year, and this is the second program he has achieved success with--doing it first at Montana where he took two teams to the NCAA's. He has had some post-season success--taking his 2006 squad to the NIT semifinals and was an assistant coach for Stew Morrill in the early 90's and then Mike Montgomery from 98'-01'. Am I convinced he could lead this team to the promised land? My main question is his ability to recruit in the south and land top prospects. I think that this hire is the biggest wildcard on the table.

Herb Sendek shut us down. I would have liked to have seen us interview the Xavier coach and probably the Western Kentucky coach but other than Drew from Baylor I really don't see a coach I am thrilled about.

All that said it shouldn't matter because by all accounts and people I have talked to Terry Don is going to land Brad Brownell as his big fish. So lets take a bit closer look. He has posted twenty plus win seasons all four of his years at Wright State but only made the dance in the first year. He coaches in the Horizon league, a highly competitive mid-major that has as its main competition Butler. Most people say apart from Brad Stevens he is the best coaching talent in the league. He has done a good job with two smaller programs, first UNC-Wilmington and then with Wright State. Interesting bit of trivia, Brownell was an assistant under Jerry Wainwright who left UNC-W to go to Richmond and then to DePaul where he was fired this year. You know the rest of the story.

Oh just saw Shakin has a much better write up of this whole thing than me so check it out here. Knowing that Brad Stevens was a pipe dream I think that Brownell is the best name we have so far. I want to see him lock down Marcus Thornton and keep Booker and Johnson on the team. Johnson would flourish in Brownell's offense and hopefully he can teach the team to set some screens and shoot the ball. No more of this needing to recruit better shooters--at the very least I want a guy who can teach. I will miss the pressure D and the full court approach but this year the system looked worn out so maybe we won't miss it much. I do, however, want to win next year--so whatever it takes TDP. If you make a bad hire I want your resignation...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Brief Coaching Analysis: Part 1 Al Skinner

So TDP out is interviewing coaches which is good because we need to get this done and have a coach take back control of this program. Thornton is asking to be let out of his LOI which will happen but he is not against returning to Clemson(although he better understand that he is not going to be allowed to go to another ACC school--thats just standard LOI practice, everyone, everywhere does it). So the first thing I want the new coach to do is go and park his car outside the Thornton home and stay there until the ink dries on his LOI to Clemson.

Next I want him to drive to Union and the home of the Booker's to stroke the ego and let Devin know he will be a focal point of the offense. I was going to write a post about how I hate it when players whine about playing time as freshman (especially when they play more on average than any other freshman and even start a couple of games) but truth be told D Book is our only legit back to the basket post presence and if someone would teach a guard how to throw the ball into the post he could do some damage. No one else will...Bobo?? Grant is a nice complimentary post player and has made great strides but will struggle as the main offensive post threat.

So lets look at who has interviewed thus far. We begin with Al Skinner.

#1 Al Skinner--Fired recently from BC, he has the most wins in BC school history. He is immaculately dressed all the time. At home he sports a tie and on the road a turtleneck or sweater combo (but never a tie on the road). He seems to never wear the same suit twice in a season. I'm not even joking.

His offense is really boring. He played for the ABA Nets team with Julius Erving. He runs a Flex offense where cutters cut across the floor. You may remember the offense from watching your local high school bc it is what the majority of teams run because its pretty simple and gets everyone moving. What BC did nicely was to really pack in the floor making it a very physical game. Learning how to set screens is something Clemson players have never learned so that would be a welcome change.

My feeling right now with Skinner is that we could do worse. He knows how to coach fundamentals. His teams have done alright in the past--he coached some good Rhode Island teams in the 90's to the tournament (the 2nd Round!!) and his Dudley teams at BC were good making it as far as the Sweet 16. But they have been lackluster this past year and losing seasons in 2 of the past 3 seasons doesn't sit well. It seems that Skinner has lost some of his passion for the game, he has never been an amazing recruiter. I think he develops the talent he has adequately though. He has never recruited much directly in the south and he is not young. I feel at this point that he is a fallback after we shoot a little higher.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Thornton Considering Leaving

This is the one thing I just really didn't want to have happen. Marcus Thornton, Mr. Georgia Basketball, is considering asking for a release from his letter of intent. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal but he is the only recruit we have coming in this year and he blossomed as a senior. He would be snatched up by pretty much anyone at this point.

He has the athleticism we need and really would have been good in Purnell's system. I say we sit on it until the new coach is at least signed and if I was the administration I would want to keep him locked in and make him transfer. I know that is a really crummy thing to do but recruiting is done and he is our only recruit...I probably wouldn't be able to do it but I would sure want to.

I think I would be more upset to lose Thornton than I was hearing that Purnell was leaving. At just a hair under 6'8", Marcus Thornton is the power forward/athletic slashing three we need for our offense...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

OP Is Gone

**Update by TigerMax below**

Umm...OP just left us to go to DePaul. I wouldn't feel so nervous if I had any faith in TDP to perform a decent search and hire the best coach out there. I am really interested to see what level of talent we can pull...

I'm really worried that Purnell saw the writing on the wall and knew that this team wasn't going to get much better. He certainly won't be taking any recruits with him so that's a bonus...

Its really late but this is shaping up to be the most pivotal decision in Clemson basketball that will shape the coming five years at least. Lets see if we can make the tourney now!! How about we hire Shaka back?? A certain Butler coach?? Just an early thought...

UPDATE: I'm pretty surprised. I had thought Purnell was committed to Clemson for more or less the long haul at this point in his career. And despite the basketball history at DePaul, their recent run of abject suckiness makes this a basically a lateral career move. This does, however, make sense in light of Purnell's coaching history. He style of coaching is basically that of a disruptor: he introduces a scheme (pressure defense) that forces you to adjust. It's great for building a program from the ground up because no one sees it coming. You can draw parallels to the concept of disruptive technology in the business world, basically the introduction of a novel business strategy that upsets the current order. As competitors adjust, however, the advantage fades. A classic example was the introduction of reliable Toyota/other Japanese cars in the 80s to the automotive industry. Only now are American companies like Ford starting to catch up in reputation.

In basketball, though, it's a little easier to respond. Coaches adjust their strategies to adapt and then they start exploiting the weaknesses in your scheme. They also start taking elements of your scheme, ultimately lessening it's impact around the league as everyone sees more and more of the same thing. That's last year for Clemson--we saw a lot of teams that have almost learned how to almost completely blunt the advantage that was inherent in Clemson's pressure defense. At the same time, Purnell really failed to improve the team in other areas. I was hopeful that with the ability to recruit better offensive skill players at Clemson he might "settle down" as a coach and learn to adjust his scheme to accommodate different talents. That obviously didn't happen and if it didn't happen last season it's arguable that it ever would have happened.

So Purnell is off to ply his scheme elsewhere for a few seasons. He'll probably eventually manage to take DePaul to the tournament, but I suspect he'll fade pretty quickly from basketball memory if he doesn't make some fairly drastic changes. Some unsolicited advice: take a page from Mike Anderson and recruit kids that won't turn the ball over every third possession.

Onto the brave new future for Clemson. Like any member of the Clemson faithful, I've got my doubts about TDP. And no, I can't see Brad Stevens coming here. As much as I like Stevens or any kind of coach that takes stats and schemes seriously, it'll take way more money to pry him away from Indiana than Clemson will fork over (on the other hand, maybe he'd like another shot at Coach K). If TDP surprises everyone and manages an encouraging hire, it'll be interesting to see what a decent offensive coach can do with the current team (assuming everyone stays on...). I think there's quite a lot of talent, but it will require an impressive coaching approach to get us past .500 next year.

And please please please please TDP, as a die-hard Clemson basketball fan: whatever you do, no retreads.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Thoughts on the Tourney: Let the Midmajor Backlash Begin!

I'm hitting a rough patch at work right now, so I've got little to no time. Quick thoughts on the tourney, though:
  • I don't get all the mid-major love. Yeah, they've had a good tourney, landing 4-5 teams in the sweet sixteen, depending on your opinion of the A-10 conference (my opinion: Xavier is a "major" team playing in a midmajor conference). But 3 of the teams caught pretty big breaks on their way. Butler topped two weak midmajor teams (barely, I might add). Cornell drew two teams that were practically duplicates of each other, and happened to match up extremely well against that particular team profile. St. Mary's, the absolutely inexplicable sweet 16 entrant, beat a decent Richmond team and then a Villanova team that collapsed on itself about two weeks earlier (which nearly dropped a game to Robert Morris in the first round). Northern Iowa is the only team I would really call a "surprise", beating a decent UNLV team before shocking a lethargic Kansas squad. In the round of 16, St. Mary's and Cornell were absolutely crushed while Northern Iowa was nipped by an injury-laden Michigan State team. Even Butler, the midmajor darling, beat an injured Syracuse team lacking an inside presence that couldn't hit a three to save their lives before beating Kansas State team in the closing minutes, a Wildcat team that was coming off one day's rest after a 50 minute sprint against Xavier.
  • So, in summary, a bunch of midmajors caught a bunch of breaks to advance deeper than expected. It's pretty simple reasoning, but that hasn't stopped the sportsmedia from ginning up the old "midmajors deserve more tournament births" meme. This has happened every few years for the past 15 years or so, just think back to 2006 when 3 midmajors (George Mason, Wichita St., and Bradley) made the sweet sixteen and the same story was plastered over newspapers across the country (of course, this time it's plastered on big-media hosted blogs, but I digress...).
  • I realize that everyone loves a good underdog and in principle, I'm in favor of including as many deserving midmajors as possible. Thing is, the committee actually did a pretty good job of including midmajors this year. Yes, Florida and Minnesota were extremely weak teams, but can you name any midmajors that were more deserving? I can think of one, maybe: Dayton. That's it. The committee whiffs on one team while including UTEP, St. Mary's, San Diego St., Utah St., and Richmond. Not a bad job if you ask me, and I'm ignoring possibly more deserving teams from major conferences. As much as I slagged them, Virginia Tech had a good argument for getting in, probably better than Florida/Minnesota/St. Mary's/Richmond.
  • I've read an article or two about the proposed 96-team tournament. A lot of the waffling from conference officials seems to revolve around whether the extra slots would go to midmajor teams or middle-tier major conference teams. My retort: who cares? Any of those teams might be capable of stringing a couple of wins together every couple of years, but none of them will be very good.
  • The best argument I've read in favor of an expanded tournament is that it would allow for both regular season and conference tournament champions to play in the big dance. This is a pretty big deal for lower-rung conferences where a dominant team during the season can be suddenly left out 'cause they played one poor game in the conference tourney. Problem with this argument is Ken Pomeroy crunched the numbers, and it turns out that the conference tournament does a pretty good job of selecting the best team, with the added bonus of providing a good means of selecting a team when several are bunched together at the top of the standings.
  • Back to the Final Four. Let's be clear, I like Butler: they play excellent fundamentals, they have a stats-oriented coach, and they have a lot of great individual stories. And I'll probably end up rooting for them when all is said and done. But, lost among all the Butler-love, they aren't really one of the best teams in the country and it's not particularly close. They are riding an incredible string of breaks and close victories. And they catch yet another break by drawing Michigan State in the semi-finals, another good but not top-shelf team (to be clear, an injury-free MSU team is probably a top-shelf team) that is riding their own streak of close victories and relatively easy opponents to the final four (when the best team you've played in four games is Maryland, yeah...Tom Izzo is a genius if you put stock into a superpower that forces higher seeds to lose right before you play them). Now, this is what is great about the tournament; catch a few breaks, seize a few opportunities and you find yourself playing in the Final Four. But let's not get caught up in the hype, this does not herald Butler's rise to the upper echelons of college basketball. They obviously appear to be in better shape long-term than say George Mason was in 2006, but let's not get carried away and expect them to duplicate this feat anytime soon.
  • Finally, Butler's run is a painful reminder of Clemson's 2007 tourney draw. Uggh...think about the draw we could have had: #12 seed Villanova, #13 seed Siena, #1 Kansas, and #10 Davidson. Yeah, we probably get past Kansas 1 out of 10 times or something, but 3 out of 4 games against double-digit seeds to get to the final four? Can we travel back in time and pull the press after the first 10 minutes of the Villanova game?
A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.