The length of the opposing team’s possessions played a role in Clemson’s defensive outcomes. The Tigers shone brightest in possessions that lasted between 20 and 40 seconds, with only 23.1% of these resulting in goals. However, as possessions stretched beyond the 40-second mark, Clemson’s defense began showing cracks, with goals allowed on 35.4% of possessions, indicating an area for scrutiny. They were 12 percentage points better than the average on the shorter possessions and just 2.2 percentage points better than the average on longer possessions. If they were able to create turnovers early, they were effective. They were less effective when opponents were able to withstand their pressure.
The team’s performance, however, was not without its highs and lows. Even after adjusting for their opponents, a four-game winning streak in February against Wofford, Furman, Winthrop, and Gardner-Webb was their best defensive stretch. In this golden period, Clemson’s adjusted defensive efficiency was a mere 3%, placing them in the topmost echelon of teams. The key to this success lay in their ability to force a turnover rate of 50%. In contrast, their roughest patch came in April, with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 25%. The culprit for this dip was a starkly reduced turnover rate of 13%. They were able to turn over less effective offenses, but they struggled to repeat that trick against better teams. Again, when they couldn’t force turnovers, they didn’t have an answer.
Statistical thresholds also presented interesting insights into what made the Clemson defense tick. The key bellwether was the opposing offense’s shooting percentage. In the 10 games where their opponent shot better than 43.2%, Clemson did not record a victory. On the flip side, a shooting percentage of less than 43.2% from the opposing team signaled a likely win for Clemson, with a 12 – 2 record.
In conclusion, Clemson’s 2023 defensive unit proved its mettle with impressive rankings and key statistical performances. While they dominated in many areas, fluctuations in turnover rates was a significant factor in their performance. How to stop good offenses who withstand their pressure is the next step in this team’s defensive development.
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P.S. What did I miss? Data-centric analyses like this can miss things that don’t show up in the stats (i.e. injuries/coaching changes). If you can help explain any of the above, put it in the comments.