Clemson Tigers (21-11, 9-7 in ACC, 0-1 ACCT, 0-1 NCAAT)
ACC Finish: 6th
Final Kenpom: 20th, though this could change a little after the next weekend of Tournament games.
Below you'll see an overview of the season from our perspective and statistical information for the season overall and important stats for each player. We may not do another post on basketball again unless news develops about the team, so we'd like to hear your impressions on the season of course.
Looking over the Season
Clemson started out like we usually do, with cupcakes to pad our record, and demolished them. We jumped out 4-0 before going to the 76 Classic Tournament where we lost Game 1 in lethargic fashion to Texas A&M 69-60. We struck back against a very good Butler team 70-69 to finish 2-1 in the Tournament. I said at the time that I felt like we were the better team against A&M, but that against Butler we outplayed a superior team. I still believe those statments are true.
Then came Illinois, and the collapse that we're used to by now. We jumped out to a 47-27 lead at the half, only to flip it in the 2nd and lose by 2 after a 22-1 run brought it within fighting range with 8:50 to go. Clemson just totally fell asleep on defense and the apathy spread to our offensive game, as it usually does. Illinois shot 60% in the 2nd and Clemson only threw up 22 shots.
"I am just amazed," said Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. "At the half I told them to at least compete. They took it to us in the first (half) and then came out slow in the second, and we were able to take advantage...Now we just have to be consistent."
"It was certainly a tale of two halves," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell. "We couldn't play much better in the first half. At halftime, we talked about the fact that Illinois would give us everything we had in the first five minutes...We still had a chance to win at the end."
Then Clemson continued destruction of our local opponents to push our record to 12-2 and ranked (#21) as we began ACC play at Cameron Indoor. Our midseason evaluation of Clemson entering the game is worth looking at again. Duke crushed us 74-53, holding us to 32.7% shooting and making 18-of-30 from the arc with Karl Hess in attendance. They even outrebounded us, showing their superior hustle, which became a problem for CU in the conference.
Then came the highlight of the season: a 83-64 thumping of then-12th ranked UNC. In retrospect it doesnt seem all that spectacular, but it meant something then, and its always good to see Norkerlina get their ass kicked.
Against NC State a few days later, we again jumped ahead big with a 45-28 score going into halftime only to flip it again in the 2nd and squeek out a victory because of free throws: 2 makes by Tanner Smith, then 2 misses by Julius Mays secured it.
"I give all the credit in the world to NC State for the way they battled in the second half," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "I thought they out- toughed us."
The true story of the game was the disappearance of interior defense by Booker and Grant, along with the loss of Stitt to a mid-foot sprain. After Stitt went down we fell to pieces and went on to lose the next 3 games to GT, Duke, and an inexcusable loss to Boston College in an empty arena. In all three, our half-court offense was abysmal, the defense sporadic and unenthusiastic, and we showed that we are totally unable to create shots for ourselves.
Stitt was almost healthy again when we beat a very good Maryland team at home. I thought we just outfought them on this day and our defense, especially Tanner's on Vasquez, was very good. Neither team looked good on offense as Maryland turned it over 26 times to our 21, and both shot under 35%. Clemson's 20-8 advantage on the offensive boards made the difference.
A road game to VT showed that we still didnt care so much on the road. Malcolm Delaney put 30 on us in what otherwise was a decent defensive game. Trevor Booker was out most of the game, and we found later that it was a result of flulike symptoms, not just his fouls. Neither team shot well and Clemson murdered them on the boards, but the referees murdered us worse. VT went 38-for-46 from the FT line. Yes, it was Karl Hess.
After returning home we looked dominant again, outshooting FSU, Miami, and UVA pretty well. The defense wasn't so much exceptional as it was the offense in these games. Clemson really tore it up offensively. The half-court sets were not really better or more advanced these couple weeks, we were scoring our points off of the same in-out game on offense and off turnovers, just like we always have. The defense has definitely had its moments, and has been good on the whole, but I wouldn't call it smothering.
Then came another OP 1st-rd loss to Mizzou, who basically beat us at our own up-tempo game by hustling on defense for 40 minutes as opposed to our usual 20.
Our expectations coming into this year were a little higher than how things turned out. Clemson started out ranked 24th on the year and we felt like we had the ability to go 10-6 in the ACC with around 25 wins and a Sweet 16 appearance. We felt that Booker would have a great year and that Young would unseat Stitt as the PG starter.
However we pointed out that the loss of Oglesby and Rivers would kill us, and that teams would zone us and collapse on Booker all season. We also said this:
The Tigers historically get off to a fast start against patsies, then peter out towards the end of the year (in '08, ended the season winning only 4 of the final 9, then got punked in the first rd of the ACC (against G. Tech) and NCAA's (Michigan). If Clemson wants to be a serious contender in the ACC, the Tigers will need to find a way to finish strong for once.
Turned out pretty much the same way again.
It also turns out that Booker had a disappointing season, and showed that he lacks the mental toughness to play in this conference. Even when opponents didnt double-down on him, he did not consistently show the ability to play in the post with full effort and it bleeds into his more-lackadaisical defense. Booker has the talent to play in the NBA, but in our opinion he lacks too much upstairs to be a great NBA player.
LW asked OP about whether it was a good thing that we fans were upset with how the season turned out, and I think it should be included here.
"I think so. That means people are interested in basketball here. And just the conversations that are going on. (Upstate radio host) Dan Scott wouldn't even talk about basketball until fall before. And it was still an aside until football was over.
"I mean, we talk about basketball around here now all summer long. And it's a great thing. I feel good about that. I feel like we had something to do with that.
"Yet at the same time, it doesn't take away the disappointment that you have when you go out of that first round in the NCAA. That's really hard. It's like, suddenly it stops. And that's hard. And I hope our players feel that."
Team National Stat Rankings
|Off. Rebound %||42||216|
|FT Att./ FG Att.||249||129|
These Kenpom statistics show our defense was pretty good all year, particularly at defending the 3, steals and turnovers. We do OK with blocks nationally as well. Other than offensive rebounding the offensive stats are pretty horrendous. Now for the more normal statistical figures:
|Points per Poss.||1.05-4th||0.92-3rd|
Demontez Stitt - has developed into a basketball player, but is still a 2G playing the 1. His defense is good, but he's sloppy with the ball in his own hands. Is an occasional threat from range. Over the last 3 years, you can see he's improved a little in certain areas but in some ways did regress this season.
|Effective FG Pct||44.3||45.3||51.7|
|True Shooting Pct||51.1||50.1||56.1|
|Assists Per Game||3.0||3.781||3.133|
|Steals Per Game||0.9||1.5||1.467|
Andre Young - A 2 in a 1's body. When Stitt went down I thought that he grew as a basketball player and really improved his game. However, he cannot create his own shot. If he could do that, he could really be a threat to other teams. Over the last two years...
|Effective FG Pct||49.2||53.0|
|True Shooting Pct||50.3||56.4|
|3pt FG Made||30||60|
|3pt FG Att||77||160|
|3pt FG Pct||39.0||37.5|
|Assists Per Game||2.062||2.406|
|Steals Per Game||0.969||1.688|
Tanner Smith - Hustler, but God awful sloppyness with the ball in his hands. i scream for him to pass when he touches it. Sure to commit a dumb foul and make an ugly layup once per game, as well as an ugly dribble-drive that gets rejected. Has to work on his ballhandling and some jump shot. If he works on it hard enough, he can shore up where his talent lacks.
|3pt FG Made||15||25|
|3pt FG Att||42||91|
|3pt FG Pct||35.7||27.5|
|Off Rebs Per Game||0.469||1.188|
|Assists Per Game||1.062||2.156|
|Steals Per Game||0.906||1.156|
David Potter - Purely in there for defense. His shooting was dreadful for 3/4 of the season, though overall his scoring per game actually went up all 4 years. Cannot handle the ball.
|3pt FG Pct||17.1||33.9||36.5||37.8|
|Pts Per Game||2.5||4.8||4.938||7.0|
|Off Rebs Per Game||0.4||0.7||0.812||0.719|
|Assists Per Game||0.7||1.1||1.281||1.375|
|Steals Per Game||0.3||0.9||0.594||1.281|
Trevor Booker - Undeserving of 1st Team All-ACC praise, especially All-ACC Defense. He has the talent to be on both, but he 1) doesnt demand the ball or play hard, until its too late, on offense and 2) stands around clapping and thumping his chest after he scores instead of getting his ass back down the court when we're not pressing. Can really only go to his left in the post, and loves to dribble when he does not need to -- resulting in a turnover when he's doubled. His stat totals show minor differences from last season, and I actually believe he regressed as a player. His PPG, rebounds, blocks, steals, 3pt %, and FT % all went down from last season.
|Off Rebs Per Game||3.1||2.7||3.344||2.781|
|Off Reb Pct||13.3||10.6||12.0||10.0|
|Def Rebs Per Game||3.3||4.6||6.375||5.594|
|Def Reb Pct||15.8||20.0||23.0||20.4|
|Assists Per Game||1.1||1.5||1.688||2.531|
|Steals Per Game||0.9||0.6||1.469||1.344|
|Blocks Per Game||2.2||1.9||1.969||1.406|
Jerai Grant - Was there as a body on offense to start out, but became an outlet for Booker to throw to inside. Should've been All-ACC defensively instead of Booker, because he usually is where he's supposed to be inside, even after he dunks a ball on offense. I wish he would block out inside better on rebounds and will be no better than a solid player next year after this season. I expect him to start at the 5, but eventually the 5 may be Devin's position.
|Off Rebs Per Game||1.3||1.75||2.419|
|Off Reb Pct||16.3||13.2||13.2|
|Def Rebs Per Game||0.9||1.438||2.29|
|Def Reb Pct||12.0||10.9||12.6|
|Assists Per Game||0.4||0.469||0.613|
|Steals Per Game||0.3||0.375||0.806|
|Blocks Per Game||0.7||1.406||1.742|
Devin Booker - Has the talent to go left and right inside, but is otherwise similar to Trevor when he was younger. Devin has the size to play in the post when we go big but isn't mentally ready in my opinion; the confidence is not there. His defense is hit/miss just like his FT percentage and all of his stats trended downwards as the season progressed. Will play the 4 or 5 for us, but doesnt have the outside ability if we go 4-out.
Milton Jennings - After his struggles for the first 2/3 of the season, I thought the light came on for him in mid-February. He's still sloppy with the ball but his offense woke up a little. He can play the 4 inside and out athletically, but until he develops his perimeter shot and handling skills he can't play ball out there.
Noel Johnson - exciting talent, good shooter, but may need to work on some midrange shots. He has to work on his ballhandling ability, and especially his defense.
Other players like Donte Hill or Bryan Narcisse appeared to have something earlier this year, but by the end they were hardly ever playing so they are hard to evaluate. I do like Narcisse's hustle out there, similar to Tanner's, but he doesn't have the talent. He could end up as a solid contributor though.
Major Problems going forward into 2010-2011
- The Wing position - Lets face it, Tanner Smith plays with great hustle that we all love, but he's not a talented basketball player. He doesnt have much of a shot, makes at least one stupid turnover per game as well as commit a completely bonehead foul outside at least once per game. Clemson MUST develop Noel Johnson or Milton Jennings or Donte Hill into something that can service us on the perimeter, with a plus of possibly being able to attack and score himself. I think Johnson will end up being the solution as a shooter, but he must step up his defense. MJ is doubtful as he's playing mostly a 4-position for us. Gotta get Langford to sign with CU.
- Perimeter Shooting - Andre Young showed us he is unable to create his own shot, but that he has talent when its available to him. Johnson again must come up big, but when I see him I dont see a pure shooter. Stitt is just inconsistent. I suspect this problem will be a little better going forward but I don't think we will be able to call next year's team awesome from range. Its pretty hard to find a great perimeter shooter who can run like we do, those guys go to Duke or Kansas or Kentucky.
- Post Play - Trevor Booker is gone. Our in-out game is decent with him, but how will Grant and Lil' Booker do inside without him? Grant came on this year in ACC play a little, and at least developed into an outlet when Booker was doubled. He will have to do better than pick up the garbage inside next season. Devin showed flashes inside and shows talent that Trevor did as a freshman, but also made some dumb fouls that Trevor did - back when he played defense. Milton Jennings occasionally showed flashes inside at the 4 but he's not bulky enough to succeed when we play a slower pace. Thornton will end up being a 4 I think, fighting with MJ for minutes. I would like to see one of those two become a real problem at the point-of-press for opponents.
- PG Play - crucial, but still dont have it, and won't be more than servicable at best next year. No recruit on the radar at the moment. PG isn't as much of a problem if you run motion well, but we don't. In the half-court set, we need a guard who would make good decisions.
- Mental toughness - This team lacks it, last year's team lacked it, and the one before. When their shooting goes cold, so does the defense, and vice versa. Another team sinks a big shot and we fold rattle to pieces. We're not able to stop runs when we have a 20 point lead.
- Ballhandling - Nobody has it on this team in large amounts. Tanner is scary with the ball in his hands, as was Potter. Stitt gets sloppy with it and turns it over, though he is the only solution as a true slasher/scorer. AY is about the same. Booker loved to dribble when he had no reason to do so. And the #1 problem....
- Overall half court offense - Our spacing is horrendous. Our 3-out motion offense doesnt work when people a) dont move, and b) cant set a proper screen. Our problems are somewhat from OP recruiting guys who are athletes and not ballplayers, and getting a guy who is able to play a press and still make plays offensively is tough to get at CU. I'm not certain what OP does in practice but I suspect that he spends the majority of it on defense, so he runs to a simple motion system that he apparently doesn't teach well at all and doesn't rep enough. This is why I've harped on the 41 offense, in the hope that it would help the spacing issues. What about some 1-4 sets and plays? Even if they were simple they should work if you drill them. OP will need to make a decision on what he does with his practice minutes between now and next year.
Don't let the offensive stats fool you, they are based on PPG and I suspect if you take out the steals we force that lead to uncontested shots, Clemson's offense rates itself FAR FAR worse. Its also boosted when teams try to run with us up and down the court when its not their game, and those nights when we shoot the lights out.. When they force us to play a 1/2 court game, we look bad more often than not. Big games = 1/2 court play.
Our opinion on OP.
Defensively Clemson has the ability to really mess some teams up, but on nights when the press doesnt work, we don't have a Plan B. I do not believe theres anything wrong with playing the press, be it man or zone-based. The press can win. its OP's system and he's not going to change any of it, and the pace of play gives you something to sell to recruits.
The problem is that he just cannot teach them a half court offense. We've got the same problems offensively that we had when he got here, but he has upgraded the talent and winning is what we need at CU to develop this program. If he can get us into the NCAAs every year, I'd have to admit I'd be happy with that, but he has to win an NCAA game too. He might need to string together 4 more 20-win seasons to recruit the kinds of players we need here to establish ourselves. Considering where we've been, and how far he's brought them, I can't call for this guy to be fired.
There were several games this season in which the opponent simply wanted it more than Clemson. We harp on this during football season and will point flaws like this for other sports also. While a coach cannot play the games for the players, you should expect the team to be ready to play in big games, especially in tourney games. Needless to say, when players come out and confirm that they may not have been metally prepared or "up" for a game, you have to expect the coach to find a way to motivate his troops. While this isn't a season-long issue, multiple games in a season that fit these symptoms are cause for concern.
The final item we will assess (and continue to look at moving forward) is this staff's ability to cultivate the '09 freshman class moving forward. This group came to school with the most hype that I can remember out of an incoming CU bball class out of high school. The big three rising Sophmores (Jennings, Johnson, and Booker) will need to step up for this team to move forward. I will admit that I was a little disapointed with the production this season, but probably bought into the excitement a little more than I should have. Clemson will need to develop either Jennings or Johnson into a mid- to outside threat shooting the ball. With one year complete, the progression of this young group will be under the microscope from the opening tip next season, as the Tiger's fortunes will ride on improvement gained in this off-season. We are hoping to see more poised and agressive play as this team moves forward without the elder Booker brother.
But a pass? No, he doesn't get a pass. He wants this program to move up, and that means higher expectations for himself too. If OP cannot win a postseason game next year, I know that I will more than likely turn against him.
Your thoughts on the season?