Game 6: Michigan at Clemson Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
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:

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

Pregame Reading:

  • Tweeter

    Not really that confident in this pick, but I’ll say UM bounces back tonight with a win. 66-63. I believe that Beilein will have the team prepared and the experience against UTEP offensively will really help. I think we see UM be very aggressive on the offensive end which will lead to a lot of free throws.

  • JimC

    Reality has set in.
    Clemson by 12.

  • sven

    Clemson 80 Michigan 66

  • Kenny

    Hardaway is going to have a A game and Mich wins.

  • BlueRev

    Time for a return to splendor for Hardaway and for Smotz and Novak to play closer to potential (near double figure scoring to help Hardaway, Morris and Morgan with the scoring load) but ultimately it’ll come down to defense as we surprise in a close one… UM 65 Clemson 63

  • Polisci

    Big win tonight… we shoot 36% from 3 and pull out a 67-63 victory. And the reality that this is going to be a roller coaster of a year sets in.

  • AG2

    This is going to be an ugly game. Turnovers, missed free throws, bad shooting by both teams. Hopefully we can force enough turnovers to counter our shooting.

  • Bigfoot

    There will be some terrible calls in this game.

  • ZRL

    This team isn’t as good as it looked in the first 3 1/2 games and isn’t as bad as they looked in the last 1 1/2 games. If this were at home, I’d pick Michigan, but I have a hard time seeing such a young team winning their first road game. First team to 55 wins.

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      15 more points and we’re golden! :-P

  • Section13Row15

    I’ve seen too many of these U-M road game to predict otherwise. Clemson wins a close one with both teams in the 60’s. AG2 has it nailed…it won’t be very pretty, hopefully we can have enough go right to squeak one out. I really hope I’m wrong and we can put it all together.

  • Evan

    Sweet Sweet memories from ncaa tourney.

  • kevin

    From the two games I watched, Michigan’s offense was very stagnant. A lot of dribble , dribble dribble, long three. The times they were working the ball and feeding the post it opened up backdoor cuts, open guys beyond the arc, etc… I think if Morgan plays at least good to start the game it should make the offense have more of a rhythm or flow. Another thing I noticed in the Syracuse game was the amount they got to the line. In the first half Syracuse had 7 fouls I believe and in the second half only had 2 (at least for a long while) . But that goes hand in hand with the offense being stagnant. One last thing, I think if they can limit Clemson’s 2nd chances they’ll walk away with a victory.
    good luck, go blue.

  • SDSU

    we’re outsized, outgunned, and going on the road in the hostile south will bring out our brickiest brick-shooting yet. That said, but we bring them down to our level like an anchor (the way IU and NW brought Iowa’s football team down to theirs)… Clemson wins in something like 59-49.

  • JRW

    Anyone else going to be in attendance?

  • SDSU

    For me, the great moment in that tourney was in the Oklahoma disaster, when a frustrated Manny drove baseline for a big, mean jam. What made last year (barely) tolerable to watch were the dunks that Harris and Sims threw down from time to time. Now, THJ and DMo have to carry the dunking torch into the new decade.

  • windsorGoBlue

    ON a practical note, anybody streaming this on JTV? For those of us who either don’t own a TV, or don’t live in the land of multiple ESPN channels (aka Canada). The guy who streamed the UTEP game maybe? That would be so cool.

  • wayman britt

    I know we have a big game tonight and lots to discuss about our current roster, but I would like to ask the question is Nick Stauskas the type of recruit that can put us in the top three of the Big Ten? Can he create his own shot? Dribble drive to the hoop and finish?

  • Go Blue

    Just make some shots for a change and we have a chance. Gotta make 32% from deep

  • windsorGoBlue

    Stauskas looks pretty good — seems to have a bit more athleticism and length than novak/douglass/vogrich, all of whom were at one time listed at 6’5 and now appear to be shrinking. Apparently stauskas also has a good shot. Great to see JB isn’t sleeping on all the talent in Canada — Texas’s two star freshmen are both from Toronto, and Detroit-Mercy’s Jason Calliste might give this year’s off-vintage Butler squad some problems too.

  • YpsiTuckyBoy

    I have the same question wayman britt. If you notice now, the offense gets particularly stagnant without Morris/THJ in the game, because those are our best two dribble-drive players. It drives me bonkers when they just swing the ball around the outside, 30-ft out from the basket, while the shot clock runs down, then finally heave up a long shot. The best plays happen when Darius gets penetration, then kicks it out, and then he shoots or swings it once more to an open player. That’s why I was really hoping Pointer signed.

  • SteinerBlue

    Yeah, Dylan. You’ve got to laugh at commentators like Gottlieb for their lazy, uninformed analysis regarding the 1-3-1. So many commentators (including the horrendous HD Net guys) talk like it’s our primary defense, akin to Syracuse’ 2-3 zone. Just shows they aren’t doing their homework.