NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011 First Four Preview: Clemson Tigers vs. UAB Blazers

The first big matchup of the 2011 NCAA tournament gets going tonight when the Clemson Tigers and the UAB Blazers play each other tonight at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT on TruTv. Let's take a look at each of the two teams and how they matchup against each other, thanks to Ken Pomeroy's excellent stats (also, click here for the Clemson file and here for the UAB file)

Clemson

Stat breakdown

107.8 offensive rating (77th)
88.7 defensive rating (9th)
253rd in adjusted tempo
45.2 eFG% defense (21st)
23.0 forcing turnover % (38th)
32.2 three point % defense (59th)
43.7 two point % defense (25th)
13.5 block % (20th)
12.2 steal % (22nd)

Analysis: This is a team that prides itself on its defense. Good at taking away the ball, good at keeping buckets out of the basket, good at taking the ball away, good at guarding outside and inside. Their offense is not quite up to par, but their defense is generally good enough to beat teams that struggle offensively.

Key players

Milton Jennings (6'9", 225 lb): Takes most of the shots on this team, pretty good rebounder. Should be forbidden from ever taking threes (only shooting 30%).

Jerai Grant (6'8", 220 lb): Probably the most efficient player on this team. Grant seems to be the weakside defender who comes over and takes away the drives, and also shoots the ball the best for the Tigers.

Devin Booker (6'8", 235 lb): Another solid rebounder.

Andre Young (5'9", 170 lb): One of the two primary ball handlers, he's pretty good at dishing the ball, holding onto the rock, and pick pocketing opposing teams. He's their best three point shooter, although he struggles shooting elsewhere.

Demontez Stitt (6'2", 175 lb): Actually has a higher assist rate than Young and is pretty good at distributing the ball and hanging onto it as well. Both Stitt and Grant are good at drawing fouls.

Tanner Smith (6'5", 220 lb): Pretty good at getting assists just like Stitt and Young, and he also gets a lot of steals. It seems everyone on Clemson's big six contributors has some defensive asset that makes them so tough to deal with as a unit. Clemson racks up the steals, rebounds, blocks on the statsheet, all while forcing teams to a low percentage shooting.

UAB

Stat breakdown

108.1 offensive rating (74th)
94.1 defensive rating (49th)
318th in adjusted tempo
45.6 eFG% defense (32nd)
31.0 three point % defense (24th)
50.9 two point% offense (45th)
71.9 FT% (91st)

Analysis: The Tigers and Blazers cancel out in terms of rebounding rate, and while the Tigers aren't great at holding onto the ball, the Blazers aren't great at taking it either. The Blazers also can't get to the line that well. UAB is going to have to be able to nail their two point shots effectively or find a way to get extra possessions, and hope Clemson plays lazy and shoots too many threes (something they're only average at, yet continue to persist at shooting).

Key players

Aaron Johnson (5'8", 185 lb): One of the best distributors in the country (fourth in assist rate in the entire country), but also turns over the ball a lot as a consequence of usage rate. Johnson is really good at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line; efficient at the free throw line and inside the three point arc, but should be banned from ever taking shots from downtown (20 for 86, only 23%). Clemson's guards cannot let him get to his spots on the floor.

Jamarr Sanders (6'4", 200 lb): Takes the majority of the shots as the recipient of Johnson's passes, and is a pretty good shooter from anywhere on the floor. If UAB is to pull the upset, both Johnson and Sanders are going to have to play the games of their lives to beat a solid Clemson defense.

Cameron Moore (6'8", 225 lb): Primary rebounder and shot-blocker for the Blazers, and is also efficient with his production offensively.

Ovie Soko (6'8", 225 lb): Moore takes the defensive boards, Soko crashes the offensive glass. He's an average foul shooter, which isn't good for a guy who takes the second most free throws on the team.

Dexter Fields (6'2", 190 lb): Second big three point shooter outside of Sanders.

Prediction: Clemson. Both teams are even offensively, but the defense of the Tigers should rule the day by forcing turnovers on a turnover-prone UAB squad and forcing an already average shooting Blazers team into even worse numbers. With four freshman on the bench for UAB, it's likely the Blazers will have to get out to an early lead and hang on for dear life to spring the upset.

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