2010-11 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Clemson

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(home games)
  • Date: Saturday, March 5, 2011
  • Time: Noon
  • TV: ESPN2

Some say tomorrow’s game with Clemson is a must-win game. Others say it is
not. Either way, Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament chances would be greatly
enhanced with a road win on Saturday. It won’t be easy, because the Tigers are
14-2 at home this season and fighting the Hokies for an at-large berth to the
Big Dance.

Clemson is 19-10 overall, with an 8-7 record in the ACC. In fact, their
resume for the NCAA Tournament is very similar to Virginia Tech’s.

Resume
Comparison
Category VT Clemson
Overall 19-9 19-10
Conf. 9-6 8-7
RPI 63 59
SOS 91 81
vs. Top 50 2-6 2-5
Quality Road Wins 0 0
Bad Losses 3 3

The loser of this game will only be the sixth best team in the ACC, according to
the computer rankings. On average, the ACC has gotten 5.5 teams per year into
the Big Dance since conference expansion, and the league is generally first or
second in the RPI. This year, it’s fifth, and it’s somewhat tough to see the
loser of this game having the computer numbers to make the NCAA Tournament
unless they make a run in the ACC Tournament.

It’s unfair to categorize this game as a "must-win" for Virginia
Tech, but it could be. It probably is a "must-win" for Clemson. They
can’t afford a home loss to end their season. That would hurt them quite a bit
in the RPI.

This game will also help determine seeding for the ACC Tournament. The Hokies
could still finished third in the conference with a win on Saturday and a
Florida State loss at NC State Sunday. However, a Tech loss and a BC win over
Wake Forest would mean a three-way tie for fourth place with Clemson and Boston
College. In that scenario, the Hokies would not get a first round bye because
they would be 0-3 against Clemson and BC. They would be the #6 seed, and they
would likely face #11 Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

Clemson
Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G Demontez Stitt 6-2 180 Sr. 14.1 4.4
G Andre Young 5-9 175 Jr. 10.8 2.7
F Tanner Smith 6-5 205 Jr. 7.7 3.4
F Devin Booker 6-8 245 So. 7.8 5.3
F Jerai Grant 6-8 230 Sr. 12.7 6.7

Clemson has a very experienced starting lineup, with two seniors and two
juniors. Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant have been regulars in Clemson’s rotation
since they were freshmen. In fact, it was Stitt that sank two free throws in the
closing seconds as a freshman to beat Virginia Tech 70-69
back in 2008
, and that game arguably kept the Hokies out of the
NCAA Tournament.

Stitt is a good scorer and a 36.8% three-point shooter. He is Clemson’s most
important player, and without him on the court the Tigers aren’t nearly as good.
Jerai Grant is their most effective inside player. He is a springy forward who
has 68 of Clemson’s 140 blocked shots this season. He combines with Devin Booker
on the inside to form a solid combo.

Andre Young lacks size, but he’s a good scorer, and he has made 65 of
Clemson’s 181 three-pointers this season. He is their most consistent outside
shooter while playing over 32 minutes per game. Tanner Smith isn’t great at any
particular thing, but he has a high basketball IQ, and his 78 assists rank third
on the team.

Clemson only has four healthy bench players. Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, So.)
is a former McDonald’s All-American who is fourth on the team in scoring,
averaging 8.2 points per game. Jennings is an active offensive rebounder, but
he’s not a good shooter at this point in his career. He also has 57 turnovers,
the most on the team. Bryan Narcisse (6-6, 220, Jr.) is an important player who
brings energy off the bench, though he doesn’t have the talent to put up major
numbers.

The other two bench players are Cory Stanton (5-10, 175, Fr.) and Xavier
Anderson (5-9, 170, Sr.). Anderson is a senior walk-on who has had to play just
under 10 minutes per game this year. Stanton is a freshman who has really
struggled shooting the basketball this year. With Stanton, Anderson and Andre
Young, one-third of Clemson’s playing rotation is 5-10 or shorter.

The Tigers don’t have a top-notch three-point shooter, though they have a
number of guys who are more than capable. Demontez Stitt (36.8%), Andre Young
(38.2%), Devin Booker (32.5%), Tanner Smith (32.5%) and Bryan Narcisse (39.1%)
are all capable of knocking down the open outside jumper, though none are elite
outside shooters.

Stats
Comparison, ACC Games Only

Category
Clemson VT
Stat Rank Stat Rank
FG% 42.3% 9 45.3% 1
FG% Def. 40.8% 4 42.4% 5
3Pt.% 34% 8 36.2% 4
3Pt.% Def. 32.3% 3 32% 2
FT% 74.7% 1 73.1% 4
Reb. Margin +1 5 +2 4
TO Margin +0.8 6 +0.8 6
Assist-TO 0.9 8 1.0 7
Scoring Off. 66.4 10 70.9 4
Scoring Def. 62.8 3 65.9 5

Average
5.7 4.2

Virginia Tech has dropped statistically over the last several games, and though
they are still ahead of Clemson in most categories, they are playing in
Littlejohn Coliseum, where the Tigers are 14-2 this season. The Hokies have won
three ACC road games, but all were against teams who currently rank in the
bottom half of the ACC: Wake Forest, NC State, and Maryland.

This will be a big test for the Hokies, who will be facing a team with just
as much to play for. Both of these teams look the same when you look at their
resume, and both teams can help themselves out by potentially knocking the other
off the wrong side of the bubble.

Though we haven’t started the ACC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament,
tomorrow’s game should have all the drama and excitement of a postseason game.
Both of these teams know they could be facing an elimination game, and neither
wants to play in the NIT.

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