Clemson's 69-61 loss to Michigan was, to be completely honest, a little depressing. I've watched a few of Clemson's games already this year and I've been trying to look for bright spots in those games. The competition in the games that I had seen was weak though, so I was trying to look at the quality of basketball played rather than the final score. I had negative suspicions about this team, but I reserved judgement until I saw them play a decent team. Those suspicions were confirmed last night in the form of a smack in the face. Clemson's basketball team lacks talent.
Clemson has guards that cannot shoot and big guys with no post game. It's tough to score when you play a half court game with those attributes from your players. Smith and Stitt are Juniors and Seniors, respectively, and those two have proven over the course of their careers that they are not good shooters. At least to Stitt's credit he is good driving the ball to the basket. Smith doest not possess an offensive talent worthy of playing in the ACC. He can't shoot, he's not quick or athletic, and he makes horrible decisons with the basketball. His stat line last night reads like it has far too often over the past 2+ years. 2 points, 0-5 from 3 point land, 2 assists and 2 rebounds, with 5 turnovers. Not only is Smith not helping the team, but he is severely hurting the team. The other starting guard is Andre Young. Although Young actually can shoot the ball, he is 5'9 with lifts and cannot get his shot of easily enough to be a consistent threat in the half court offense. Michigan had guys guarding him last night that were 6'4 or taller. That height difference renders Young useless on offense unless someone can draw his defender away from him.
The big guys are struggling just as bad, if not worse. The three key big guys that we rotate in and out of the game are Grant, Booker, and Jennings. None of them possess an offensive move with their back to the basket that a defense has to worry about. This is ACC basketball!! Ever heard of an up-and-under? A drop step? These guys don't have that in their arsenal. I had kids on my 8 and under team that used an up-and-under move. The only way those 3 are going to score is off of putbacks or because Stitt was able to drive and dish to them. And since none of them are good, aggressive, hard-nosed rebounding big men, these points are few and far between.
I wish I could spin this loss as a poor shooting night that is atypical of what to expect out of Clemson, but I don't see it that way. I see a veteran team that is what it is at this point. They are lacking in talent and basic offensive fundamentals. This team is going to struggle to score against quality opponents all year. Michigan is a middle of the road Big 10 team and they came into our house and ran away with this game. The final score of 69-61 isn't even indicative of how much better Michigan was than Clemson.
Going forward I'd like to see Noel Johnson take Tanner Smith's minutes. I suspect that Coach Brownwell isn't happy with Johnson's defense and rebounding effort, but this is a guy that can actually make an open shot. It's not like Smith is playing great defense or controlling the glass. As long as Johnson can knock down an open shot and not turn the ball over 5 times a game, Clemson will be in better shape with him on the floor. The other thing I will be looking for is development out of the big men. Jennings and Booker are Sophomores now and their big men coach needs to teach them how to be confident and score with their backs to the basket.