Monday, February 18, 2013

Clemson & Miami: 10 Things to Takeaway

Sunday night’s basketball game was the movie you’ve seen a hundred times before. You can quote the best lines and you know exactly what’s about to happen, yet you still get all choked up at the ending. Like Rudy or Field of Dreams. Well, not exactly like those – because they have a happy and satisfying ending. The Clemson basketball team is more like a tragedy. You know the ending, watch anyway, cry, and then feel silly because you knew better. You told yourself you wouldn’t fall for it again – but you did...

But like most great movies with a terrible ending, you look back and remember the good times, the funny lines, and the memorable scenes. And for some reason, you feel better about yourself. You’re not sure why, but you do.

And that’s what this article is – a chance to look back at Sunday night’s game, find some takeaways, remember the good times, and think about what might have been. Here are 10 takeaways from Sunday night’s game. Maybe they’ll be as therapeutic for you as they were for me.

Jordan Roper
With only two upperclassmen on the roster, the young guys were going to get plenty of looks. Few have taken advantage of those opportunities as Mr. Roper. At one point Mr. McDaniels was taking asserting himself, but as teams began focusing on him, it left others, namely Mr. Roper, open. And he hasn’t disappointed. Hopefully he can build on this performance and become an offensive threat – something Clemson has sorely missed.

Free Throw Shooting
Good night, where to start? How about Cliff Ellis, because it seems Clemson’s free throw shooting problems can be traced back at least that far. Everyone remember Tate George and “The Shot”? Wouldn’t have mattered if Sean Tyson hits the front end of a 1-and-1. Sound familiar? Sunday night, Clemson is up 4 and shooting free throws. McDaniels misses the front end and here comes Miami. McDaniels gets a second chance on the next possession, but only gets 1 of 2. If he hits just one more of those free throws, Clemson is going to overtime, at worst.

Family Time
This game was the first one to really capture my family’s attention. We had it on from the start and they kept tabs while I stayed glued to the tv. With Clemson up 4, and the kids ready for bed, we decided to let them stay up a bit later to watch (plus we didn’t want to miss the ending). They learned a ton about basketball, but unfortunately, even more about defeat.

Credit to Miami
Very rarely can you force a team to play your style of basketball for a full 40 minutes, but that is what Clemson did. From start to finish, Clemson dictated pace and play. And Miami still won. Miami scored 25 points less than their season average, and still won. Miami’s main shooters were ice cold, and they still won. Littlejohn was rocking and the pressures of being undefeated were immense, and Miami still won. And in the end, when Miami was down 4 with under 2 to go, they found a way to win.

While Clemson had chances to put this game away, all credit to Miami for hanging tough and winning. Now go beat the Hell out of Dook and UNC!

Best Defensive Game
I can honestly say this was the best defensive game I’ve seen Clemson play in many years. At a minimum, you’d have to go back to the 2009 beat down of Duke. But I think you go back further – to the brawl between Clemson & USC, where USC earned their first firstdown following a blocked punt, and never really crossed midfield. That defense was dominant, maybe as much as Sunday nights'...

Good Crowd
The crowds at Littlejohn have left much to be desired, but Sunday night’s game was one of the better crowds I’ve seen at Littlejohn. Much credit to the students who showed up, and to the season ticket holders who were loud and proud.

And more than that, I saw very little Miami garb. I know their success has been a surprise, but many times a visiting team is able to snatch up the prime seats, which are clearly visible on tv. Sunday night, not so much.

Jim Larranaga
While I’m not overly fond of Miami’s players, there’s something about Mr. Jim I enjoy. It’s easy to root against the Roy Williams’ and Coach K’s of the world, but I can’t see myself doing the same with Mr. Jim. He’s not an overly emotional guy, seemed very humble in the postgame interview, and in general looked like a likable and personable guy. And while he finally left George Mason, he didn’t bolt after their Final Four run.

Let’s hope he stays that way.

How Good is Miami?
I will say it now – Miami wins the ACC regular season, but they won’t win any postseason tournaments.

After watching Miami put a beating on Duke & UNC, I was beginning to come around. However, after Sunday night, I’m a little worried about Miami’s long term prospects. If they play a team with a similar style, they should be fine. But if they run into a solid defensive team that can hit some shots – a la the Big Ten, I think they may have some trouble. If Clemson hits anything in the first half, it’s a different game, or if they make free throws, it’s a different game. Eventually, Miami will find a team that will hit a few shots and make their free throws. And they could be in trouble.

What Could Have Been
Not sure who owns the “One Play Away” mantra: Tommy Bowden or Brad Brownell. To Brownell’s credit, he hasn’t gone down that road yet, but we might as well. Right now, Clemson is 5-8 in the ACC. They could easily be 8-5, in 4th place in the ACC, and on the bubble.

Unfortunately for Clemson, they’ll be spending a good portion of this offseason wondering what could’ve been. This is their fifth ACC game they’ve lost by five points or less, and that doesn’t include the loss at BC where Clemson was within 1 with just over a minute to go. Clemson will look back and wonder “What if we made a shot or two in the first half against BC”, or “What if We Made a Free Throw Against NC State or Miami”, or “What if Karl Hess wasn’t at the FSU Game”. Hopefully, these will be lessons learned for next year.

Officiating
Everyone is making a stink about the charge call against Rod Hall, as well they should, but for once, I have no beef with Karl Hess. Overall, I thought the game was called pretty fair – it was loose, but it was a clean game. Many may disagree, but I don’t think we can lay this one at the zebra’s feet.

And one to grow on:

The Streak
We’ll get into this a bit more in a future post, but Clemson is in major jeopardy of ending their streak of finishing at least .500 in conference play. It may not seem like much, but when you factor in that only Clemson and Duke have accomplished this feat, it’s pretty impressive. Also, Clemson is one of only five ACC schools to have a streak in all three revenue generating sports, and one of only two schools where all three streaks are of multiple years.

We’ll dive into this a bit more, but Clemson will need to pull off a road win at either Maryland or Miami to keep the streak alive.

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