Friday, February 14, 2014
game preview: Clemson
Date/Time: Saturday, February 15; 12:00
Record against the Tigers: 69-52
Last meeting: UVA 78, CU 41; 2/7/13, Charlottesville
Last game: UVA 61, Md. 53 (2/10); ND 68, Clem. 64 (2/11)
UVA: 62.3 (#339)
CU: 59.5 (#349)
UVA: 109.3 (#83)
CU: 101.4 (#230)
UVA: 87.3 (#2)
CU: 90.5 (#6)
UVA: .9300 (#9)
CU: .7870 (#52)
PG: London Perrantes (4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.6 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (12.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (6.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 apg)
PG: Rod Hall (9.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.7 apg)
SG: Adonis Filer (4.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SF: K.J. McDaniels (17.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Jaron Blossomgame (4.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.3 apg)
C: Landry Nnoko (5.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.4 apg)
This is a time in the season where every game now is a chance to pick off spots in the ACC tourney. What I mean is this: UVA can mathematically fall no lower than the 8th seed; win this game, and it'll be 7th, and likely enough, 6th, with NC State playing Syracuse later in the day.
That said, it'd be nice if NC State would win; looking in the direction we ought to be looking, which is upwards, UVA still needs help if it wants to win the regular season outright. Sharing is nice and all. Sharing still lets you put a new number on your banner. That's all well and good, but I'm still gonna be all greedy 'n shit.
As for Clemson, this was a team predicted by the media to bottom-feed, and they are not doing that. Some folks did give them more credit than that, but I'm sure no one expected them to beat Duke. Clemson can be dangerous, with a profile that looks not unlike the early Tony Bennett years at UVA: good field, no hit.
-- UVA on offense
Clemson's KenPom defensive profile should look awfully familiar; like UVA's, it's full of bright green colors that indicate elite play in various areas. No team in the country, for example, has been better at defending threes. Teams have shot just 27% from distance against the Tigers, and this combined with a general reluctance of their opponents to even try the long ball has meant that a disproportionate number of points and attempts against Clemson have come inside.
This is fine by them, as they have a pool of long tall defenders to choose from down low. Length is one of the best things going on this Clemson team. You start with K.J. McDaniels; much of the reason Clemson is so stingy on three-pointers is their tendency to have him guarding opponents' top shooters and haranguing them into not shooting. McDaniels has a tremendous 9% shot-block rate. Center Landry Nnoko is the Tigers' best interior defender, another long alterer of shots with plenty of bulk to hold his ground.
They've also utilized a pair of bench centers to spell Nnoko, but it's likely only one will be available tomorrow as Sidy Djitte rolled his ankle against Syracuse. Djitte is the better of the two, the other being Ibrahim Djambo, who's long but incredibly skinny and less of a true center than a tall forward. Djitte's been a decent shot-blocker but it's really only McDaniels and Nnoko that Clemson has needed in order to be 13th in the country in block %.
To pile on the things they do well, they don't send teams to the line much. Mainly that's through the efforts of the guards, who are never in foul trouble. The frontcourt is actually rather foul-prone, and their game against Notre Dame took a big swing in favor of the Irish when Nnoko sat with foul trouble in the first half.
(As a side note, one of the things Clemson does really well is free-throw defense. Their opponents have shot 63.8% against them, 7th-worst in the country. Now, of course you're calling bullshit on me, but this isn't totally a stroke of luck - the fact that their frontcourt does all the fouling means that when they do foul, they're usually fouling other teams' crappy free-throw shooters.)
How, then, to attack the Clemson defense? There's a weak point: the fact that there's only one McDaniels and three pretty unimpressive shooting guards. Does Brad Brownell assign McDaniels to our top three-point shooter (Joe Harris) or best all-around offensive threat (Malcolm Brogdon)? My bet would be on Brogdon, as putting any of the two-guards on Brogdon would open up the court for him tremendously. Adonis Filer is the best defensively of any of the three aforementioned guards, and Clemson could use him on Brogdon without losing much, but Jordan Roper is too small and Damarcus Harrison also risky. Anyone Roper guards will tower over him. UVA may look to spread Brogdon and Harris - or whoever is playing 2 and 3 at the moment - completely apart on the floor, so as to remove McDaniels from the equation as much as possible.
-- UVA on defense
This is where Clemson loses games. McDaniels is an absolute hoss, of course. 17 points a game on a team with a way slower tempo than even UVA is amazing. He takes 31% of his team's shots when on the floor. He can be stopped, however. For one, once he puts the ball on the floor, he's not looking to pass much. Unlike a Lamar Patterson, whose assist rate is sky-high, McDaniels is much less of a passer and his teammates, when he does pass, don't knock down many shots.
The other comparison to Patterson is this: I suggested UVA should make him into a two-point jump-shooter, and that's exactly what they did and he went 1-for-10 from inside the arc. Even more so with McDaniels - he hits almost 70% at the rim and is an outstanding free throw shooter, so once he gets a head of steam, good things happen for Clemson. But he's only a 33% shooter on jump shots. UVA must work to shut off all passing lanes to McDaniels except outside the pack line, collapse hard on him if he drives (preferably before he drives), and force him to either pull up or kick it outside.
The main threats on offense outside of McDaniels are point guard Rod Hall, a solid all-around player and a good facilitator, and center Landry Nnoko who uses his size well. Clemson is also a very good offensive rebounding team, with Nnoko, McDaniels, and Jaron Blossomgame good at cleaning up friendly misfires.
However, there are plenty of weak points, too. Blossomgame and Ibrahim Djambo like to toss threes in the general direction of the rim; under no circumstances should they be discouraged from doing so, or in fact ever guarded more than 10-12 feet from the rim. Filer, Hall, and McDaniels are at best decent three-point shooters who force you to keep it in the back of your head not to let them get screamingly wide-open looks, but aren't likely to go on a rampage. Clemson gets much less production than you'd like out of their 2-guard position, with Filer, Roper, and Harrison all starting games at some point and none of them really seizing the job. Roper was a very good three-point shooter last year but is much colder this year, and his size makes it hard to get good looks any closer. Harrison has always been a horrible shooter in general and the only thing keeping his O-rating afloat is a lack of turnovers and excellent free-throw shooting (the latter of which makes his poor in-game shooting that much more inexplicable.)
Clemson is one of the few teams in the country that UVA can look at and go "cripes, you're slow." Combine that with the excellent defense played by both teams and this is a first-to-50-wins game. It might not even take that much to win the game. In conference-only play, you can go down the list of KenPom's defensive stats and tick off, one by one, all the areas where UVA is first. Total efficiency, 1st. Effective FG%, 1st. Defensive rebounding, 1st. Turnovers, 2-point defense, free-throw defense**, 1st, 1st, 1st. 3-point defense, OK, fine, 2nd. Meanwhile, Clemson is 14th out of 15 in almost all the things I just listed. (15th is ha ha ha you know the answer.) If UVA is up to its usual standard on defense and even moderately effective on offense, they'll win this game rather handily.
Final score: UVA 59, Clemson 50
**Again, not a total coincidence. The pack-line severely limits drives to the rim, which in turn keeps good free-throw shooters off the stripe.