Clemson has been playing better basketball of late and has got themselves right into the heart of NIT discussions. DRatings.com is currently projecting Clemson as a #4 seed in the NIT with South Carolina as a #1 seed and Miami as a #2 seed. With 10 games of conference data, let's look at Clemson's numbers and see what they've done to right the ship after looking like a bad team coming out of non-conference play.
- Offensive Efficiency: 97.3
Since the start of conference play, Clemson has scored 97.3 points per 100 possessions (adjusted for competition level). This number is more rosy (and accurate) than simple points per game due to the slow tempo Clemson plays at, yet it is still good for just 13/15 in the conference. Even during their current five game winning streak they've yet to top 70 points.
- Offensive Turnover Percentage: 17.2%
What has made that offensive efficiency number a bit more passable is the improvement in turnovers. Including all games, Clemson has turned the ball over on 18.7% of their possessions, but against tougher competition in the ACC, this number is down 1.5 percentage points to 17.2%. This is still only good for 11th in the conference, but the fact that it has improved despite a hike in competition level says a lot. During their current four game win streak, Clemson has had fewer turnovers than their opponent three times, and in the win over NC State had just one more turnover than the Wolfpack. Avoiding turnovers allows Clemson's defense to shine.
- Tempo: 60.6 Possessions
Clemson hasn't exceeded 66 possessions in a conference game and has done a better job of controlling the tempo.
- Defensively Efficiency: 97.9
Second only to UVA and their ridiculous 91.1 defensive efficiency, Clemson has been one of toughest teams to score against since ACC play has begun. They've defended the pick and roll well and have mixed in more zone looks which has worked nicely. They're still strangely susceptible to simple backdoor cuts, but overall they've gotten to the point that if the other team has the ball and needs a bucket to win, you like your chances.
- Effective Field Goal Percentage: 43.1
This is where Clemson makes their hay. We're not a good shooting team, we're not especially careful with the ball, although improved, and we don't force many turnovers, but it is extremely hard to score against us. If you'll recall, eFG% is the weighted average of your two-point field goal percentage and 1.5x times your three-point field percentage (since you would need to shoot 1.5x better from two to score the same amount of points you would from three).
Clemson is tops in the conference here. They've held ACC foes to a paltry 40.9% from two. This has forced opponents to shoot a bit more three-pointers against us with 30.7% of their field goals coming from three-point range. Clemson has held opponents to a mediocre 32.0% from three while shooting 31.9% themselves. Closing this disparity has been key for Clemson.
- Defensive Turnover Percentage: 16.2%
The only knock against Clemson's defense is they really don't create a lot of turnovers. 16.2% is just 9th in the league and with a struggling offense, more turnovers could help fuel the offense. Clemson did a good job of turning turnovers into buckets against the TO prone Seminoles.
- Block%: 9.7
Down nearly four percentage points from a year ago, this is where Clemson clearly misses K.J. McDaniels and a Landry Nnoko with less than four fouls. Clemson has been average in conference play at blocking shots. When you consider that, you can really appreciate how incredibly hard they are to score against.
While an NCAA berth is a long shot due to the terrible start this team got off too (1-2 with losses to Gardner Webb and Winthrop), the opportunity to close the season with another NIT run which could include a rematch against the Gamecocks is juicy. Certainly, this team has done enough to give us reason to watch and cautious optimism for the future. Clemson's schedule to close the season includes two games against Notre Dame and five in which they'll likely be the underdog, so we're going to hold tight on discussion of anything bigger for now, but cross your fingers, as that would be a very, very fun post to write.