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Clemson Wants a Word With Greensboro[UPDATED]

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People are not happy with the refs.

Update: SCACCHoops has an excellent set of charts showing the top foul differential games among ACC teams so far this season as well as the overall foul differential for each team. Hat tip to JP for linking that.

So, let's take a look back at the Clemson - UNC game one more time. Did the referee's give the game to UNC? Unlikely. There is likely no team in the ACC that plays more conservatively on defense than the Heels, who with no real shot blocker are forced to keep their opponent from getting to the basket. Offensively, the Heels get up more shots and have more possessions than anyone else in the ACC so attacking the basket is certainly their strength.

On the flip side, Clemson is one of the most aggressive teams in the ACC defensively, and while both teams have a strong post presence it was clear that the two teams were on opposite ends of the spectrum in foul differential. The Tigers came into the game at -22 on the season while the Heels came in at +103. So, it really should have been no surprise that the Heels had a +17 advantage when all was said and done.

I think that says it much better than I tried to do fighting sleep last night while writing this post.

The second most talked about topic surrounding UNC's incredible comeback win over Clemson is the fact the Heels enjoyed a 31-14 advantage in fouls which led to a +29 FTA advantage by game's end. Doug Gottlieb made reference to it in something he wrote on ESPN. com saying Clemson "could not get a call." Now news comes from Clemson that they plan to contact the ACC concerning the foul discrepancy feeling that, according to the front page of CUTigers.com, Clemson was "jobbed by the officials." Now, there is an obvious implication in this line of thought and that is the officials gave UNC favorable officiating. The logical extension of that is that ACC officials routinely favor UNC and Duke in the way they called games.

Secondary to that I find any complaint about the officiating to be somewhat suspect unless you have an enhanced video of the game pointing to the calls that were wrong and the ones that were missed. Outside of that, you are basically relying on perceptions formed on the fly without out replay in many cases and also without being able to watch everything happening on the floor at the same time. That being said, there is a fairly stark number staring back at you there in terms of the number of fouls Clemson committed versus the number UNC had whistled on them. I would like to think there are explanations for such things, explanations that do not include black helicopters and tin foil hats.

Now, I will stipulate that 36-7 is a huge difference in FTA and 31-14 is likewise a fairly big gap in fouls committed. However there a few factors to be considered that might explain some of the discrepancy. The first is that UNC played fairly passive defense giving Clemson open looks with out much contest. It is very difficult to defend someone, much less foul them when you are leaving them wide open. Add to that the fact Clemson does not generally get fouled. The Tigers are 11th in the ACC in FTA. Why? Because they are a poor free throw shooting team and it is better for them to not shoot FTs unless they have to. Also understand the defense or lack thereof from UNC allowed Clemson to shoot 16 more shots than UNC did. In other words Clemson ended up shooting instead of getting fouled whereas UNC saw more fouls than shots.

Another key point is the fact it really did not matter for the first 37 minutes. Clemson staked as much as a 15 point lead on UNC and was up 11 with three minutes left despite the fact they were woefully outshot at the FT line. Some might make the argument that the FT discrepancy not only took away Clemson's aggressiveness on defense but at the same time prevent the Tigers from getting a large lead. I call poppycock on that one because it is complete speculation that in no way can be corroborated by the facts. There is only so far you can go in terms of speculation and this is not one of those places. It should be noted that the refs were consistent in the frequency of fouls called for both teams. It is not like Clemson was not being called for fouls in the first half and the it changed. The refs called it much the same way all game long. I also expect Clemson will complain that Tyler Hansbrough makes too much uncalled contact and the answer is the same there a well. The refs seem to call his offensive moves the same way across the board so unless you can show these refs behaved differently I am not sure where the issue lies.

The bottom line here is that Clemson had the game in hand and failed to execute. It is unbecoming to openly blame the refs for a loss you could have prevented by executing your offense on 2-3 straight possessions. In the most basic terms, Clemson pissed the game way, partly due to the way UNC played but mostly because they lost composure. You can complain about the refs until the cows come home but it does not change the fact Clemson needed to hit some shots and get some stops on defense. Clemson did not while UNC did and the Heels won the game. It has always been my contention that there are enough plays a team can make in a game to effectively trump any mistakes by the officials. In this case, the implication is being made that the refs failed to do their job properly in a way that benefited UNC. In my opinion if you so much as suggest the referees are all three calling the game in favor of one team then you better bring more to the table than what you think might have happened. You better bring some hard evidence showing what went wrong otherwise it is pointless to even discuss. We are all biased in our own way sometimes seeing fouls that are not there and what not. And the truth is we are most likely wrong in our perceptions.

Such is life and Clemson needs to stop whining and find a way to close out the last three minutes of a game next time around.