Clemson lost star player Jaron Blossomgame to the NBA and expectations were middling entering the season. Brownell was on the hot seat. At 14-1, Clemson is predicted to go 13-3 in the ACC, which would have them finishing 2nd in the league behind Virginia. That’s a big jump for a team pegged for the NIT. What’s changed?
The answer is simple. Despite a reputation as a defensive-first coach, the truth was, Clemson’s defenses had been good but flawed. Offensively, this team isn’t much different than the last two seasons. They’re currently 47th in offensive efficiency. They were 35th last year and 45th in 2016.
On defense, they’re 10th in defensive efficiency. A year ago, they finished 86th and 62nd in 2016. They’re currently 30th in effective fg% on defense. Last year, they were 228th. In 2016, they were 77th. Teams have an effective fg% of 46.3 against the Tigers. Last year, that number was 51.9%.
The big difference is teams are only shooting 44.1% from 2. That’s 31st best. Last year, that number was 228th. The defense has propelled Clemson this year. Couple this improvement with a low foul rate, something that they’ve done the last two years, and you get a tournament level team. They’ve also increased their block rate to 2016 levels.
Pay attention to these numbers. The offense remains the same, the defense has vastly improved. If they maintain it, they’re not a mirage.