No Glass Slipper for Cinderella Clemson

by Team Del Genio

Sunday, Mar 31, 2024
The Clemson Tigers needed to pull off their fourth straight upset in the NCAA tournament to advance to the final four. The Tigers opened their tournament by upsetting New Mexico, 77-56, as a 2.5-point underdog despite being installed as a six-seed by the tournament committee. Clemson held the Lobos to 29.7% shooting in that game which was the lowest opponent’s field goal percentage of their season. They followed that up with a 72-64 upset victory against Baylor as a 4.5-point underdog in a game where they held the Bears to 38.9% shooting from the field. 

On Thursday in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers held Arizona to 37.3% shooting in a 77-72 upset victory as a 7-point underdog. The Wildcats missed 23 of their 28 shots from 3-point land as they uncharacteristically started relying on outside shooting. Arizona went into that game averaging only 21 shots from 3-point range per game. 

Clemson was a good defensive team that ranked 32nd in the country in defensive efficiency going into their Elite Eight game against Alabama. Yet they had been fortunate to have their three opponents in the NCAA tournament make only 17 of their 75 shots from 3-point range. When considering that ACC opponents made 35.8% of their 3-pointers against them this season, it was difficult to expect the Tigers’ opponents to continue to only hit 22.7% of their 3-pointers against them. 

Now here came an Alabama team that was taking 30 shots a game from 3-point land representing 46.3% of their shots from the field. Head coach Nate Oats' team was the 19th most reliant squad on taking 3-pointers. They made 36.8% of these shots which is the 25th-best mark in the country. Clemson gave up plenty of 3-point attempts. They rank 288th with their opponents taking 40.6% of their shots from 3-point land going into that game

We expected the Tigers’ Cinderella dreams would probably come to an ending if the Crimson Tide simply approached their season average in hitting 3s. Clemson was a good offensive team that relied on their shooting inside the arc, yet they did not do many other things to help improve their efficiency. They went into the Elite Eight ranking 234th in free throw rate. They ranked 244th in offensive rebounding rate. Head coach Brad Brownell prefers to not foul their opponents at the expense of attempting to force turnovers. Clemson ranked 340th in the defensive turnover rate. 

The Tigers’ 3-point defense held up early against the Crimson Tide as Alabama missed eleven of their first twelve shots from 3-point land. Yet the Tide finally began to make their 3s as they made 15 of their next 24 shots from 3-point range to end the game with a 16 of 36 (44.4%) shooting clip with their 3s. The Tigers only made 8 of their 26 shots (30.8%) of their 3-point attempts. Clemson’s spotting 24 points from 3-point baskets was the difference in Alabama’s 89-82 victory. 

In the end, great defense and reliable shooting inside the arc usually only go so far in the NCAA tournament. In one-and-done competitions, the ability to get hot from 3-point land or create more scoring chances is needed to win six games in a row. 

Good luck - TDG.

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