things go poorly
tags i never thought i'd need
"OP has a posse" from Clemson b-ball blog the OP.
What Say Tempo Free Stats?
Tempo free stats say we gon' die. Clemson's ACC performance on a possession-by-possession basis was better than anyone not named Duke or North Carolina:
Opp. Pace PPP PPP EM 1. North Carolina 74.7 1.16 1.01 +0.15 2. Duke 69.2 1.08 0.98 +0.10 3. Clemson 70.5 1.09 1.01 +0.08 4. Wake Forest 74.3 1.07 1.01 +0.06 5. Florida St. 69.1 1.00 0.98 +0.02
Meanwhile, Michigan was actually in the red in the Big Ten:
5. Ohio St. 60.8 1.07 1.05 +0.02 6. Minnesota 62.2 0.98 0.98 0.00 7. Michigan 61.0 1.01 1.03 -0.02 8. Penn St. 59.7 1.00 1.04 -0.04 9. Northwestern 59.6 1.03 1.07 -0.04
If you hold that the ACC and Big Ten are basically equivalent this year—generous—this bodes very unwell. I guess there's an argument that Clemson got way up there by whipping some teams badly and their week-in week-out performance is too erratic to take that number seriously, but, man, that's a big gap.
Kenpom also says this is a crappy draw for Michigan. It has Clemson the #22 team in all the land, which corresponds to a solid six seed in Tempo Free Ability Land, not the seven they got in reality. (This is not an attempt to imply the committee was wrong to make Clemson a 7; sometimes teams under- or over-perform their overall ability in the actual wins and losses. For example: Michigan, as you'll see.)
Michigan, meanwhile, is #49. If we took the top 65 teams by their ratings and broke them into seeds, this matchup would be a 6 versus a 13. Kenpom says we have a 32% chance of victory. This is considerably lower than the other ten seeds: Maryland has a 38% shot at Cal, Minnesota a 42% shot at Texas, and USC is actually a tempo-free favorite (65%) over BC.
Of course, these are just simple averages that take every possession in every game, adjust them for difficulty, and project future games based on that and a home/road adjustment. They don't take matchups into account.
Clemson Defense vs Michigan Offense
Turnovers. Clemson's major distinguishing characteristic is a 40-minutes-of-hell full press that sees Clemson force a butt-ton of turnovers: 24.1 percent of opponent possessions end without a shot. That's 16th nationally. You can see the costs of this strategy in a couple spots: a generous 2PT FG percentage allowed (46.1%; 89th) and horrible defensive rebounding.
Three-pointers. Bad news for Michigan: Clemson does a good job of protecting the three-point line. Only 28% of opponent's shots are threes, which is 26th nationally. They do allow a good percentage when opponents get a look.
Inside the arc. As mentioned, Clemson's two-point percentage allowed isn't good despite (yet another) huge block percentage: 14%, 14th nationally. They offset that with a healthy rate of fouls.
Specific People Who Are A Specific Height. The good news for Michigan is that Clemson's main lineup isn't Illinois huge or anything: the starting lineup has a 6'7" guy and a 6'9" guy but no 7-foot menace, despite the shotblocking prowess. Sims defied earlier predictions here about an inability to combat seriously large posts when he tore up Minnesota, but he tore up Iowa even worse and was then reduced to a wide array of outside shots against very large Illinois, none of which went down. I'm still much more comfortable when Sims is dealing with an opponent of approximately the same size.
The big question. Grady? Kelvin Grady, once Michigan's starting point guard, struggled badly in Michigan's ugly stretch midway through the season and got benched in favor of CJ Lee and David Merritt. Grady's limited but has one grade-A skill: handle. Attempting to press him is a futile waste of time. Merritt and Lee… eh, not so much. Beilein's not likely to start Grady or anything, but if Clemson forces a couple of ugly turnovers early he might get exhumed.
Michigan Defense vs Clemson Offense
How much of the Tiger offense is turnover based?
Opponent turnovers don't translate directly into offense unless it's a steal, which can lead to a fast break opportunity. This took forever and came out with bupkis, but it took forever so look at the graph you bastards:
That's a scatter plot of Clemson's steals against their points per possession. Correlation: eh, eyeballing it… just about zero. Where the pressing will tell is in Michigan's offense, it appears.
Their turnovers. Eh… they're mediocre, turning the ball over on exactly 20 percent of their possessions. That's about the national average. Michigan forces opponents into 21% turnovers.
Three-pointers. Clemson's Terrence Oglesby (the near-albino guy at right) is an excellent shooter hovering around 40% on his long range attempts; this is a major component of Clemson's excellent three-point percentage: 38%, which is 35th nationally. They take a slightly above-average number of them.
Michigan's been surprisingly effective at shutting down the three point line, though: 43rd in opponent makes and opponents get off a below-average number of triples. That might have something to do with…
Two pointers. Michigan is horrible at defending them, allowing opponents to shoot over 50%. Clemson is very good at getting them, making 51.4% of their attempts. Clemson's offense is mostly just good all around, with a high eFG and a very high offensive rebound percentage offsetting a crappy ability to get to the line and meh turnovers.
Past performance, future results. I kind of hate the "X-factor" as a concept/cliche, but there's an X-factor here in how the teams react to styles they haven't seen before. Michigan hasn't been pressed consistently all year; Clemson hasn't seen the Beilein offense or the 1-3-1. A lot of people are banking on Beilein's tendency to overperform in the NCAA tournament to see Michigan through, and that's usually attributed to his unusual style.
Here's some Debbie Downer: it could just be chance. Beilein's only made it a few times and has done well, but he's pulled a couple fortunate matchups, with Northwestern State blowing up Iowa before the Mountaineers had a chance; WVU also missed the three-seed in '05 and had an opportunity against an 11 in '98.
The other side of the coin: Clemson coach Oliver Purnell is 0-fer in five trips to the tourney:
- 1992: 15 seed Old Dominion, a 15-15 team is clunked by #2 Kentucky.
- 2000: 11 seed Dayton loses to 6 seed Purdue by one point.
- 2003: 4 seed Dayton loses to 13 seed Tulsa by 13.
- 2008: 5 seed Clemson loses to 12 seed Villanova by 6.
The 1992 and 2000 trips don't raise eyebrows, but Purnell's suffered two straight upsets at the hands of inferior competition.
There's a case the coaches' historical performance is more than a fluke.
Sliding. Though Michigan hasn't exactly burned up the nets of late, they are 3-2 in their last five with wins over Purdue and Minnesota. Clemson, meanwhile, has been in free fall: 1-4 to finish the season with the win over horrible Virginia and the final loss an opening-round ACC tournament matchup against last place Georgia Tech.
Common opponents. These do not bode well, but mostly because they encompass Clemson's best performances of the year:
- Duke: Michigan split a neutral/home pair; Clemson obliterated the Blue Devils by 27 at home.
- Maryland: Michigan lost a road game; Clemson obliterated the Terrapins by 29 at home.
- Illinois: Michigan went 1-2, with a ten point win at home and ten point losses on the road and in Indy. Clemson scraped a two point road win over the Illini.
- Savannah State: Clemson clubbed them; Michigan won in overtime, barely escaping a tourney-killing loss.
This will be a big test of the Beilein-as-impossible-to-prepare-for meme, because Michigan drew a tough, tough seven seed. Fellow 10 seed USC is staring at an ACC team that managed to lose to Harvard (which who does that, really) and finished 7th in conference when it comes to efficiency margin. In contrast, Michigan draws a Clemson team that, while sliding a bit, beat some good teams absolutely raw and is a solid third in conference, above 4 seed Wake Forest.
Meanwhile, Michigan is the team that finished 7th in efficiency margin in its conference, and you can tack on some uncomfortably close victories in the nonconference to that. I think Kenpom is about right here: Michigan is a decided underdog.