2010-2011 Season

Game 6: Michigan at Clemson Preview

Who: Michigan (3-2) at Clemson (5-1) clemson-logo[1]
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
When: Tuesday, November 30th, 9:00 PM
Radio: MGoBlue / 104.3 WOMC

Michigan followed up their disappointing three point loss to Syracuse with an even more disheartening performance versus UTEP. After two quick days of film and practice, Michigan is back on the road and headed to Clemson, South Carolina, in preparation for their first true road game of the season. You might wonder the last time Michigan won a true road non-conference game: December 7th, 2006 at Miami (OH).

It was just 20 odd months ago when these teams faced off at the Spring Center in Kansas City for an NCAA Tournament First Round game. Only three starters from that game remain on their respective teams rosters. Demontez Stitt for Clemson and Stu Douglass and Zack Novak for Michigan. Three other current Tiger starters came off the bench in that game: Tanner Smith, Jerrari Grant, and Andre Young. The greatest difference between then and now is on the end of the bench with the coaching staffs. Clemson head coach Brad Brownell, formerly of Wright State, is in his first season at the helm for the Tigers.

Brownell provides an entirely different style of play than former coach Oliver Purnell. Brownell is still considered a defensive minded coach but he prefers to slow the game down. Michigan fans are all too familiar with the difficulties of implementing new offensive systems – on the hardcourt and gridiron – however the Brownell era has gotten off to a smooth start as Clemson has won five of their first six games.


What The Tigers Do Well

  • Defend: It might not be the same style of defense that Oliver Purnell played, but it gets results.Only Wofford has scored more than 1 point per possession versus Clemson, and they barely surpassed that mark at 1.04 points per trip.
  • Get to the Free Throw Line: Clemson’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 56% is the 5th best in the country and the best in the ACC. In their season opener, the Tigers almost attempted as many free throws (46) as field goals (47).
  • Force Turnovers: Clemson’s opponents are turning the ball over on an alarming 26.7% of their possessions. Only Western Carolina has turned the ball over on less than once per four trips down the court.

Where They Struggle

  • Holding onto the ball: Clemson turns the ball over on 22% of their possessions which ranks 230th nationally. Senior guard Demontez Stitt is one the culprits in theis department averaging just 1.7 assists to 3 turnovers per game.
  • Making Free Throws: Despite frequent trips to the charity stripe, Clemson is far from automatic, shooting 66% from the line. Clemson actually misses 9.5 free throws per game — slightly less than the 10.2 that Michigan makes per game.

Demontez Stitt leads the Tigers in scoring. (Photo Credit: ClemsonTigers.com)

Players to Watch

  • Demontez Stitt is the Tiger’s leading scorer, averaging 14 points per game and shooting 39% from three point range.
  • A pair of 6-foot-8 big men anchor the middle for Clemson. 230lb senior Jerai Grant, 9 points and 5 rebounds per game, and 245lb sophomore Devin Booker, the younger brother of former Tiger and current Wizard Trevor Booker.
  • 5-foot-9 guard Andre Young is just 5 of 20 on two point attempts but shoots 43% on three point field goals.
  • 6-foot-5 Tanner Smith is the best setup man for the Tigers, averaging 9.5 points, 5 rebounds, and three assists per game, but is shooting just 39% from the field.
  • Sixth man Milton Jennings is a 6-foot-9 former McDonalds All-American and Clemson’s second leading scorer. Despite his length and athleticism he isn’t afraid to attempt a three point shot, hitting 4 of 12 three point attempts this season.

The good news for Michigan is that John Beilein’s schemes are designed to counteract the two things that Clemson does best – forcing turnovers and getting to the free throw line. Beilein’s teams are routinely one of the top 25 teams in the country at keeping opponents off the line and possessing the basketball. The Wolverines will certainly need to do both of these things if they want to have a chance at upsetting Clemson.

My thoughts on Clemson are a bit skewed. Statistically their resume is very sound and on paper they should be very good team. Unfortunately I watched probably the worst stretch of basketball that they played all year – the last 15 minutes of their overtime win over Seton Hall. The game was the epitome of ugly, with Clemson shooting 29% from the field, and left me thoroughly unimpressed – so much so that I was half asleep by the time the game ended. I’m not sure I have much leeway to criticize another team for their offensive woes, considering Michigan scored just 109 points and shot 31% over two games in Atlantic City.

At the end of the day, even that dismal display of basketball isn’t enough to convince me to pick Michigan, who will play at least five freshmen in their first true road game, to pull off the upset. I am hopeful that Michigan will rebound from their disappointment in Atlantic City and at least play a competitive game but I just don’t see how they can come home with a victory. Pomeroy says Clemson prevails by 10, 66-56, giving them a 86% chance at victory. I’ll go with Clemson by a score of 63-50.

Tim Hardaway Jr. Video from Michigan Basketball

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