Preview: Clemson

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on the Tigers of Clemson at 7:10 PM tonight on CBS in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The game takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the Sprint Center.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Clemson: National Ranks
Category Michigan Clemson Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Clemson eFG% D 114 129 M
Mich eFG% D v. Clemson eFG% 173 33 CC
Mich TO% v. Clemson Def TO% 16 16
Mich Def TO% v. Clemson TO% 130 154 M
Mich OReb% v. Clemson DReb% 290 302 M
Mich DReb% v. Clemson OReb% 188 22 CC
Mich FTR v. MSU Clemson FTR 329 82 CCC
Mich Opp FTR v. Clemson FTR 28 289 MMM
Mich AdjO v. Clemson AdjD 42 52 M
Mich AdjD v. Clemson AdjO 67 11 C

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

Clemson is favored by just about every imaginable source handicapping the odds of the game, so there must be a little more to these teams than a fly-by tempo free analysis. Michigan leads 5-4 in terms of categories with an advantage, though the Tigers have more total letters, with multiple-letter advantages in 3 categories. Michigan’s effective field goal percentage is going to be important in this game, so the Wolverines hope to shoot more like they did against Iowa than they did against, say, Illinois. Michigan’s ability to hold onto the rock (about which more in a second) should also play a big role in this game, and both teams are stellar on their end of the deal in that regard. KenPom predicts a 74-69 Clemson win in a 66-possession game.

The Tigers are a good matchup for Michgian in one key way: they aren’t very big. Whereas Michigan has struggled going against tall teams like Illinois and Michigan State, the Tigers start a 6-9 center (the same height as DeShawn Sims), and won’t be significantly bigger than Michigan at any position other than the 4, where Zack Novak will have to keep Trevor Booker, the leading rebounder for Clemson, off the boards. Outside of the starters, only one player (Junior wing David Potter) gets truly significant playing time, so the Tigers aren’t partilcularly deep, either. How have the tigers found most of their success this year? Forcing the opponents into turnovers using a 1-2-1-1 full-court press on defense. Michigan will need to be able to hang onto the ball against that pressure, leading some to speculate Kelvin Grady might see more playing time than we’ve become accustomed to of late.

Clemson is certainly a better team than Michigan, and they had more success in a better conference. However, John Beilein and Oliver Purnell have built up reputations of sorts for themselves in the NCAA tournament: Beilein does well, Purnell does poorly. Still, making it to the dance was a huge accomplishment for this Michigan team, and asking them to win one as an underdog might be too much to ask. Clemson will probably take the win (though again, I’m shocked at how close these two teams’ tempo-free profiles actually were), and the Wolverines will have to wait until Year 3 of the John Beilein era for their first tournament win.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Rob says...

    Tonight’s Michigan-Clemson NCAA Tournament game can be heard on the WCBN Sports Stream. Tip-off is salted for 7:10 with our coverage beginning at 7pm. Head over to maizeandblog.blogspot.com or wcbn.org for all the info. GO BLUE!!!

  2. Wolv54 says...


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