Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson

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Virginia Tech hasn’t won a home game since before Christmas, and they have won just a single ACC game in seven attempts.  They’ve got a great opportunity to win a basketball game on Saturday when the Clemson Tigers come to town.

Clemson is 11-10 on the season, and they are 3-4 in the ACC.  Though they have no hope of making the NCAA Tournament, they do have an opportunity to get a decent seed in the ACC Tournament if they can close the season strong.

However, the Tigers have had a rough season on the road.  They won at The Citadel and at Iowa earlier in the year, but since then they have been defeated at Arizona (63-47), Hawaii (75-68), Boston College (59-57) and Miami (76-73).  They have yet to win an ACC road game, and they are 2-4 overall on the road this season.

2012 Projected Defensive Tackles
Derrick Hopkins6-0301Jr.
Antoine Hopkins6-1306r-Sr.
Luther Maddy6-1289So.
Corey Marshall6-1262So.
Kris Harley6-0296r-Fr.

Clemson has plenty of experience in that starting lineup, though their overall talent level has dropped.  Head coach Brad Brownell indefinitely suspended Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, Jr.) earlier this week for academic issues.  He was averaging 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.  When he arrived at Clemson two years ago, he was their highest-rated recruit in the last 15 years, but his career has been a disappointment.

However, Jennings was still a skilled player, and a big body on the inside for the Tigers.  He was their second best rebounder and best shot blocker, and his loss in the paint will be missed.

Point guard Andre Young is Clemson’s best player, and it’s generally an issue when your best player is 5-9.  He’s a solid shooter, and he’s quick.  If Marquis Rankin starts for the second game in a row, he is the type of player who can give Young trouble.

Tanner Smith and Devin Booker are also good, experienced players.  However, there is no individual on this Clemson team that truly stands out.  Bryan Narcisse will likely get the start with Jennings suspended.  He’s experienced, and he can be a spark plug off when he comes off the bench.  He’s similar physically to J.T. Thompson, though he’s not as good or as talented as Thompson.

Four Clemson freshmen will definitely get action against the Hokies.  T.J. Sapp will get the start, and like many freshmen, he has struggled with his shot this year.  He is shooting just 34.7% from the field, and he’s only 41.7% from the free throw line.  Bernard Sullivan (6-7, 225, Fr.) will likely get more action with Jennings out.  He has also struggled to score, hitting only 33.3% of his shots.  K.J. McDaniels (6-6, 190, Fr.) is a wing who has played around nine minutes per game.

Rod Hall (6-1, 210, Fr.) has been Clemson’s best overall freshman and will likely move into the starting lineup next season when Andre Young’s career is over.  Hall has averaged a little over 20 minutes per game, though he played just seven minutes in the most recent game at UVA.  Hall averages 4.7 points per game.

Catalin Baciu (7-2, 255, Sr.) is Clemson’s biggest player.  He definitely presents matchup problems from a size standpoint.  However, he averages only 9.6 minutes per game.  He did get 17 minutes against UVA this week, and he finished with six points, but he had just one rebound.

This is a game that Virginia Tech has a great opportunity to win.  The matchups are relatively even.  Both teams play freshmen.  However, the game is in Blacksburg, and Clemson hasn’t been able to go on the road and get a quality win this season.

The Hokies are marred in a terrible slump, but if you look at their upcoming schedule, they have a chance to break out of it.

Feb. 4 – Clemson
Feb. 9 – at Miami
Feb. 12 – Boston College
Feb. 16 – at Florida State
Feb. 18 – Georgia Tech
Feb. 21 – Virginia

Tech can win each of those games.  They won’t, but it’s important that they beat Clemson, Boston College and Georgia Tech at home.  You simply can’t lose home games against teams such as that and expect to finish anywhere other than last place in the ACC.  It’s time to start winning again, and with a team like Clemson coming to town, there can’t be any excuses.

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