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Know Your Fellow Pressing Tigers: Clemson

Mizzou's dancing once again!  Let's take a look at the mirror images Mizzou will face in Buffalo on Friday.  And as always, leave your Trifecta picks in the comments.  Somebody better win this one!

Clemson: 21-10 (9-8 in the ACC)

CU Opp
Points Per Minute
1.83 1.60
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.06 0.92
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.25 1.16
2-PT FG% 51.2% 46.8%
3-PT FG% 33.6% 29.4%
FT% 65.9% 67.7%
True Shooting % 54.2% 50.2%
CU Opp
Assists/Gm 14.2 11.7
Steals/Gm 9.6 8.0
Turnovers/Gm 14.8 17.5
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.60 1.13
CU Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.5 12.4
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 13.0 12.0
Difference +0.5 -0.4

Ken Pomeroy Stats

MU Clemson
Pace 40

Mizzou Offense vs Clemson Defense Ranks
MU Offense CU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 50 9 CU
Effective FG% 96 56 CU
Turnover % 50 8 CU
Off. Reb. % 136 214 MU
FTA/FGA 280 119 CU Big
Clemson Offense vs Mizzou Defense Ranks
CU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 47 12 MU
Effective FG% 81 44 MU
Turnover % 218 3 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 53 323 CU Big
FTA/FGA 240 202 MU

(Bet you didn't expect Clemson to rank only 84th in Pace, huh?)

Where Clemson is strongest

  1. They force turnovers. Few teams force turnovers at as high a rate as Mizzou, but Clemson comes as close as anybody.  Oliver Purnell teams press as much as Mike Anderson teams, and they're equally successful at it.  In recent years, Mizzou has been vulnerable to sudden, surprise presses, but there will be no surprise here.  How they prepare to play against the pressure defense they prefer to inflict will go a long way in deciding the game.  I don't know how well they'll do at this because ... have they even played against this style in Mike Anderson's tenure here?

  2. They hit the offensive glass. By the time the game rolls around on Friday, you'll know Trevor Booker's name pretty well.  However, be afraid of Jerai Grant.  He is the most dangerous of a team full of players who are super-effective on the offensive glass.  He averages 0.12 offensive rebounds per minute (for reference, Laurence Bowers grabs 0.11 per minute at a higher pace), while three other Clemson players (Trevor and Devin Booker, Milton Jennings) average 0.09 (Mizzou only has one other player above 0.07 -- Keith Ramsey)

Where they are weakest

  1. They're careless with the ball. Ranking 218th in offensive Turnover% is odd for a team so good at forcing turnovers themselves, and it certainly damages their BCI.  For the season, Clemson actually had more turnovers than assists, which is crazy to think about considering how many steals and transition opportunities they created.  Four of CU's five starters are on the plus side of the A-TO ratio, but pretty much every backup is not, which is something Mizzou could exploit.

  2. They settle for jumpers (despite not being very good at them). Of the nine players in Clemson's main rotation, only three shoot over 50%, while five shoot under 42%.  (Sounds familiar, right?)  But that doesn't stop CU from taking 20 3-pointers per game and drawing few fouls.  It's just as well, really, as they're not a very good free throw shooting team either (268th in the country at 65.9%).  In all, CU needs easy buckets as much as Mizzou does.

Mirror Images.

The first thing that jumps out looking at the Ken Pomeroy numbers is simply how similar Mizzou and Clemson have been this season.  They rank 50th (MU) and 47th (CU) in overall offensive efficiency, 9th (CU) and 12th (MU) in defensive efficiency.  They rank 81st (CU) and 96th (MU) in offensive Effective FG%, and their defenses rank 44th (MU) and 56th (CU).  They force insane numbers of turnovers (MU is 3rd, CU 8th) and don't draw fouls (CU 240th, MU 280th).

There are still some differences, however.  Clemson has been much more effective on the offensive glass (53rd) than Mizzou (136th), and while both are vulnerable on the defensive glass, it is less of a liability for CU (214th) than MU (323rd).  Meanwhile, neither are great at avoiding fouls, but it is less of an issue for CU (119th) than MU (202nd).  At the same time, Mizzou is infinitely smarter with the ball (50th in offensive Turnover%) than Clemson (218th).  It is pretty easy to put together where the key matchups are.  If Mizzou can keep Clemson off the offensive glass and take advantage of Clemson's occasional ball-handling carelessness, then they're in business.  If not ... well ...

Be prepared for some bricks.

I discussed last week how Mizzou's major trio of 3-point shooters -- Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Zaire Taylor -- only tended to shoot as well as their opponents let them, shooting horribly against top 3PT% defenses and lighting up lesser ones (and being completely schizophrenic against the worst of the worst).  I've got some bad news for you: Clemson is tenth in the country at 3PT% allowed.  Meanwhile, Clemson shoots too many 3's themselves (19.6 3's per game) considering they're not very good at them (they shoot just 33.6%, 197th in the country), and Mizzou is pretty strong at 3-point defense (39th).

In other words, you could build a small house with the number of 3-point bricks that are possible in this game.  Whoever can get somebody hot -- English, Denmon, Taylor, or Mike Dixon (or technically J.T. Tiller, who tends to make them when nobody else can) for Mizzou, Demontez Stitt, David Potter, Andre Young, Tanner Smith or Noel Johnson for Clemson -- will have derived a huge advantage in a game in which points could be hard to come by in the half-court.  Hey Kimmie, you remember how you shot against Marquette last year?  Don't wait until the second round to do that this time around.

CU's Season to Date

  • Wins vs KenPom's Top 200
    #10 Maryland (62-53)
    #19 Florida State (77-67)
    at #19 Florida State (53-50)
    vs #26 Butler (70-69)
    #27 Georgia Tech (91-80)
    #46 Miami-FL (74-66)
    at #59 N.C. State (73-70)
    #61 Boston College (72-56)
    #63 North Carolina (83-64)
    #75 Virginia (72-49)
    #88 South Carolina (72-61)
    #159 College of Charleston (94-55)
    #173 Western Carolina (79-57)
  • Losses
    at #1 Duke (53-74)
    #1 Duke (47-60)
    at #10 Maryland (79-88)
    vs #23 Texas A&M (60-69)
    at #27 Georgia Tech (64-66)
    at #31 Virginia Tech (59-70)
    at #50 Wake Forest (65-70)
    #52 Illinois (74-76)
    vs #59 N.C. State (57-59)
    at #61 Boston College (69-75)

Common Opponents.  Mizzou and Clemson have played two common opponents, Illinois and Texas A&M.  Clemson collapsed in a 76-74 home loss to Illinois (Mizzou won 81-68 in StL), while Mizzou collapsed in a 77-74 home loss to Texas A&M (CU lost to 69-60 on a neutral court).  Anyway, these two games reflect better on Mizzou, but we probably shouldn't draw too many conclusions from a 2-opponent sample, eh?

How has Clemson done recently?  Clemson's built the reputation for starting seasons fast and fading, and it looked like the same thing was taking shape this year -- they started 15-3 before losing four of five.  However, they responded well, winning five of six to lock up an NCAA bid.  They enter the NCAAs having lost two in a row, but again, that's not much of a sample size.

CU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Trevor Booker (6'7, 240, Sr.) 17.7 0.58 30.6 MPG, 15.3 PPG (52.3% FG, 26.5% 3PT, 59.2% FT), 8.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.9 TOPG
Demontez Stitt (6'2, 175, Jr.) 10.2 0.35 29.0 MPG, 11.1 PPG (44.6% FG, 36.7% 3PT, 78.4% FT), 3.2 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 TOPG
Jerai Grant (6'8, 220, Jr.) 9.2 0.46 20.1 MPG, 7.0 PPG (63.6% FG, 58.0% FT), 4.7 RPG, 1.2 TOPG
Andre Young (5'9, 170, So.) 8.5 0.32 26.2 MPG, 8.9 PPG (39.2% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 79.3% FT), 2.4 APG, 2.1 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Tanner Smith (6'5, 220, So.) 8.4 0.34 24.7 MPG, 8.9 PPG (41.5% FG, 28.4% 3PT, 74.0% FT), 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.1 TOPG
David Potter (6'6, 215, Sr.) 5.5 0.23 23.9 MPG, 7.1 PPG (36.3% FG, 37.9% 3PT, 70.6% FT), 2.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.5 TOPG
Devin Booker (6'8, 235, Fr.) 4.2 0.36 11.6 MPG, 4.6 PPG (56.7% FG, 53.3% FT), 2.9 RPG
Milton Jennings (6'9, 225, Fr.) 2.9 0.26 11.4 MPG, 3.4 PPG (37.7% FG, 17.1% 3PT, 64.3% FT), 2.8 RPG
Noel Johnson (6'6, 190, Fr.) 2.9 0.19 14.8 MPG, 4.7 PPG (37.1% FG, 36.0% 3PT, 72.7% FT), 1.9 RPG
Bryan Narcisse (6'6, 205, So.) 1.4 0.25 5.8 MPG, 1.9 PPG (56.7% FG, 50.0% FT)
Donte Hill (6'4, 200, Fr.) 1.3 0.25 5.1 MPG, 1.4 PPG (37.5% FG, 42.9% FT)

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Trevor Booker pretty clearly presents the most unique matchup problem for Mizzou, basically putting up magnified Laurence Bowers stats (solid shooting, good on the glass, fills out the entire box score), only carrying about 35 more pounds (and two more years of experience) than Bowers.  He can potentially be pushed around a bit by bigger opponents (he had only six points on eight shots, with four rebounds against Wake Forest and huge Chas McFarland) ... but that's not exactly going to be a problem for him against Mizzou.
  • Meanwhile, Demontez Stitt is the type of guard who seems to struggle against Mizzou -- hit-or-miss from long-range, turnover-prone.  He is, however, strong on defense, and he is a good 2-point shooter.  He is not my biggest concern, but he is one of about five different Clemson shooters who could catch fire at some point.
  • Jerai Grant is the type of hustle player that gives MIzzou fits sometimes.  As mentioned above, he's great on the offensive glass, he only takes short, makeable shots and putbacks, he blocks shots, and he cleans up messes.  He is not someone you gameplan against, but he can bite you at inconvenient times.
  • Clemson is bigger than Mizzou, but only marginally so.  They have two big(ish) freshmen averaging about 11 MPG each, and only the two Bookers are larger than 220-225 pound range.

Keys to the Game

  1. Who gets hot? Anyone?  As I mentioned on Sunday's podcast, Mizzou really hasn't played like a 10-seed all year -- they've either been a 4-5 seed or an NIT team.  And when they're making their shots, they're damn near unbeatable.  But will they make their shots?  It's hard to tell for sure.  English, Taylor and Denmon only shot 27.9% on 3-pointers against teams ranked in the Top 100 in 3-point% defense, but two of the four games in that sample came in the shooting nightmare that was the SPI Convention Center in South Padre (they were 3-for-19 at SPI against Richmond and Old Dominion).  Is the HSBC Arena a good shooting environment?  Can English or Denmon get rolling?

    But that's only half of the question.  Clemson also has players who could go 5-for-10 or 1-for-8.  Andre Young and David Potter in particular could go crazy or kill their team.  Whoever gets dialed in probably wins this game ... and good luck predicting who that might be.

  2. R-E-B-O-U-N-D. As mentioned above, Clemson's biggest advantage comes in their ability to grab offensive rebounds.  Mizzou has to keep Trevor Booker and Jerai Grant off the glass, and if they do, the Clemson offense could ground to a halt very quickly.  Neither team is great in the halfcourt, and if Clemson is going one-and-done, they will quite frankly struggle to score (unless somebody gets smokin' hot ... see Key #1).

  3. BCI! BCI! In a pressing system, ball control matters above all else, and Mizzou did a better job of that than Clemson this year.  Their season BCI margin of +1.01 (1.98 to 0.97) trumps Clemson's +0.47 (1.60 to 1.13), primarily because Clemson turns the ball over too damn much.  The only way Mizzou can win without shooting well from long range is if they're forcing turnovers and creating easy shots ... and the same more-or-less goes for Clemson.  Dominate the ball, dominate the game.


If CU wins ... you know the signs by now.  Clemson gets a couple of early putbacks, Kim English goes up half-sideways on his first jumper, Marcus Denmon's first 3 misses badly, Taylor and Tiller aren't the stabilizers Mizzou sometimes needs them to be, Mizzou isn't generating any easy shots and struggles in the halfcourt ... chances are, a Mizzou loss on Friday will follow a relatively familiar script, though facing a pressing team like Clemson means things could go well or poorly much quicker.  Expect both teams to make runs at some point, but if Mizzou loses, we're probably looking at something in the Clemson 74, Mizzou 66 range.

If Mizzou wins ... again, you know the script.  Somebody -- English, Denmon, Taylor -- makes a couple of early 3's, J.T. Tiller is drawing fouls, both Tiller and Bowers are finishing around the hoop, Mizzou is grabbing defensive rebounds, and Keith Ramsey sneaks in a couple of early putbacks.  For the game, Mizzou makes a healthy percentage of their open shots, is able to set up the press, and knocks Clemson back on their heels a bit.  Again, both teams make runs, but Mizzou is in control and wins 77-71.

Honestly, I do not think this game will be nearly as high-scoring and crazy as we would like to think it will be.  With neither team guaranteed to shoot well (and therefore press as much), I expect this game to be determined in the halfcourt ... which favors neither offense.  Honestly, your guess is as good as mine in regard to who gets hot and who doesn't, but I'm picking Missouri for two main reasons: 1) Mike Anderson has seen quite a bit of success in the NCAA Tournament, and Oliver Purnell has not, and 2) It doesn't really matter who I pick, so why wouldn't I go with Mizzou if I don't have a strong feeling either way?  Clemson is a smidge more consistent, and Mizzou has higher upside, and ... Mizzou 77, Clemson 71.