In our season preview article, I projected Clemson to close out non-conference play at 9-3. Both Mark Gordon and I picked Clemson to finish 6-12 in the ACC. So far we’re 1/1, now we’ll hope that Clemson can exceed our pre-season picks and fight their way into the NIT. Below are some interesting statistics on how Clemson got here.
Despite losing both starting post players (something that insiders and fans were much less worried about that the “experts”), Clemson is averaging seven blocks per game, compared to five last season. Though this very well may regress as we face more athletic teams in ACC play, the defensive numbers are very positive. If we deep dive them using KenPom’s advanced statistics that adjust for competition and tempo, we see that Clemson surrendered .948 points per possession last season (53rd). This year that number has dropped to .910 which is good for 4th. Although the current numbers don’t include ACC play, while last year’s do, the adjustments for competition level account for some of that.
The most important factor for a defense is the effective FG% (up-weights three-pt-shots) allowed. Unadjusted, Clemson has allowed a stingy 38.5%. That’s the best in the nation. We’re also doing a great job keeping opponents off the FT line. For every 100 FG attempting our opponents have only shot 27.2 free throws (8th). The national average is 40.9.
On the negative, Clemson isn’t forcing enough turnovers, 17.8% of opponents possessions end in turnovers (214th). This team is as good if not better defensively that they were last season, and although they’re not an NCAA tournament team, it truly is an excellent defense group.
On offense, the results aren’t as favorable. Clemson is shooting 43.8% from the field. That includes 32.2% from behind the arc. This is a slight uptick from last year when the team shot 42.4% from the field and 31.7% from three, however with the increase competition these numbers will likely fall right back in line. What’s encouraging though is the FT%, that number has increased from 65.4% to 77.1%. We have enough sample to consider this a marked improvement and it could be the difference in a couple wins from last year’s team.
Our effective FG% of 49% is slightly below average (187th) and our FTA/FGA ratio of 34.7/100 is woefully below average (279th). Fortunately, we’re not committing many turnovers (17.4% of possessions end in a turnover) and we are doing a decent job on the offensive glass (45th), though we wouldn’t be shocked if the rebounding regressed in conference play.
What worries me the most about this team is what has happened behind the arc. Offensively, we’re a poor three-point shooting team. Our 32.2% from three is only good for 227th and trails the national average of 34.0%. Defensively, our opponents shoot just 22.9% from three. That’s number one in the nation, however I think this is the area where regression is most likely and could be very painful. Arkansas torched us from three a few weeks ago and our inability to stop them was the primary reason we lost the game. Monday night, VMI was 3/28 from three. While some of those shots were ridiculous circus shots, they also missed an inordinate amount of open threes. For the most part, this was luck, but as we see better shooters in conference play, that luck may run out. If teams like UNC shoot 22.9% from three against us, then we’re just the luckiest team in the country-not that I’d complain.
We are 8-1 when we out-rebound our opponents. ACC coaches are going to pound us inside. Due to our lack of interior size and the players we’ll face in the ACC this could become a problem. We do not follow our shots well enough and we don’t box out. Far too often there have been multiple Clemson players and one opponent in the paint, and the opponent has stolen the ball. Against VMI, Clemson surrendered 16 offensive rebound (though many were off long rebounds). This is a secondary point of possible regression.
Rod Hall and K.J. McDaniels lead the team in minutes and points, respectively. Rod Hall is clearly improved from last season and has averaged 30.3 minutes and 10.8 PPG. His FT% has jumped from 59.7% to 83.3% allowing him to be more aggressive. As such, his FT attempts per game have doubled, from 2.0 to 4.0. McDaniels is averaging 16.8 points and 2.9 blocks per game. He is leading the team in turnovers with 2.1 per game and has disappeared in a few games (most obviously VMI), but has been our best player overall.
Devin Coleman was our best three-point shooter averaging an amazing (and unsustainable) 42.9%. The top distance shooters remaining are McDaniels (35.6%) and Roper (35.3%). I tend to think we underutilized Coleman and am upset with the transfer, however with injured freshman, Patrick Rooks, coming back next season the long-term implications are minor.
Demarcus Harrision continues to shoot at a low 34.9% from the field and a paltry 28.6% from three, which is actually up from last season. I’d really like to see him shoot less threes, but he’s shooting slightly more than last season so that may not be in the cards.
Jaron Blossomgame is my favorite player, but if I’m being unbiased I have to admit 4.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, with 37.3% FG percentage is not going to cut it for a starting PF in the ACC. I do think he can improve on these numbers as he continues to get more comfortable in his return from injury.
Finally, I look at Landy Nnoko as someone who has improved greatly from last season. He is fourth on the team in scoring with 5.4 points per game and a great 64.3% clip. His 7.0 rebounds per game lead the team and his 1.8 blocks are second only to McDaniels. I still call him mittens for hit proclivity to fumble passes, but he’s really improved and is a critical piece for this team.
Clemson gets back to action on Saturday, the day after the Orange Bowl, with a trip to Chestnut Hill. Boston College was way worse than expected this year. If Clemson can’t pick-up a road win against BC, there’s a real chance this team goes 0-11 on the road. Expect a road win this weekend.
- Defining Success – What is a Successful Football Season at Clemson? (ryankantor.com)
- Roper, tough defense lead Clemson to 80-50 win (miamiherald.com)