Where: Littlejohn Colisuem, Clemson
Time: 1pm, Sunday, January 27
TV: The ACC Network, and online on ESPN3
Virginia Tech hopes to put Thursday night’s loss to UVA behind them when they travel to Clemson to face the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
Clemson is 10-8 on the season, with a 2-4 mark in ACC play. Brad Brownell’s team doesn’t feature the talent in the program that was there under Oliver Purnell, though this year’s group is very young.
The Tigers have been very good defensively, but they don’t possess many scoring threats in their lineup. Like UVA, they’ll try to keep it in the 50’s and win a low-scoring affair.
The coach: Brad Brownell is in his third season at Clemson. Before that, he took UNC-Wilmington to two NCAA Tournaments in four years, and Wright State to one NCAA Tournament in four years. He made the NCAA Tournament in his first season at Clemson with Oliver Purnell’s players, but now he’s trying to carve out his own path. He has a career record of 215 wins and 118 losses.
Though Clemson starts two experienced seniors in the frontcourt, overall they are a young basketball team.
G Rod Hall (6-1, 210, So.): Hall runs the point for Clemson, averaging 6.7 points and 3.9 assists per game. He has only attempted three three-pointers all season. He focuses on distributing the ball to his teammates (70 assists) and getting to the rim.
G Damarcus Harrison (6-4, 200, So.): Harrison is struggling horribly on the offensive end. He’s shooting just 36.3% from the field and 17.9% from three-point range, while averaging only 4.9 points per game.
G K. J. McDaniels (6-6, 200, So.): McDaniels averages 10.8 points and five rebounds per game. He shoots just over 30% from the outside. He is the best scorer in an offensively-challenged Clemson backcourt.
F Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, Sr.): Jennings is an outstanding athlete who averages 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He has improved his shooting, averaging 42.9% from three-point range, but his natural scoring ability never developed throughout his four years at Clemson. He was a 5-star recruit when he enrolled.
C Devin Booker (6-8, 250, Sr.): Booker is Clemson’s best player, by far. He averages 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He is a physical player in the paint. He’s only a 57.8% free throw shooter, so the Hokies can afford to get physical and make Booker earn his points from the charity stripe.
G Adonis Filer (6-2, 190, Fr.): Filer is Clemson’s top freshman, averaging 7.9 points per game off the bench. Like many freshmen, his shooting isn’t great right now (38.3% from the field and 33.3% from the outside), but he’s the most naturally gifted guard on Clemson’s team.
G Jordan Roper (5-11, 165, Fr.): Roper is a smaller guard, but he averages 6.4 points per game off the bench while shooting 38.6% from three-point range.
F Bernard Sullivan (6-7, 230, So.): Sullivan, a former Tech recruiting target, is Clemson’s top post reserve off the bench. However, he gets just 10.9 minutes per game, and averages only 1.8 points per game.
Though not as talented overall, Clemson is similar to the UVA team that Virginia Tech faced on Thursday night. They play at a slower pace, and in ACC games they are dead last in the league averaging 57.3 points per game. However, they allow just 58.8 points per game in conference games, and rank #38 nationally in defensive efficiency.
Clemson is 2-1 in ACC home games, having dropped a close one to Florida State, and then blowing out both Wake Forest and UVA in back-to-back contests. Like many teams with a young roster, they are a more than capable basketball team at home, but they play poorly on the road. Fortunately for the Tigers, this one is being played in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Last Chance for a Win Until…?
Here’s what I don’t like about Virginia Tech’s five conference games thus far. When the Hokies have won, they’ve barely beaten two lower-tier teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. When they’ve lost, the Hokies have been run off the court, including two blowout losses in Cassell Coliseum at the hands of Boston College and UVA.
This Clemson game is winnable, as the Tigers don’t have a lot of firepower. However, Virginia Tech ranks #246 nationally in defensive efficiency. Amongst power conference teams, the Hokies are dead last in defensive efficiency. The closest to them in the rankings are Boston College (#238) and Penn State (#220). Every other power conference team ranks in the top 200 in defensive efficiency.
Virginia Tech can win this game, but they are going to have to play better defense. Against UVA, and in many other games this year, the Hokies just look lost on the defensive end of the court. They don’t fight through screens well enough, and they look confused on where to be with regards to their rotations.
If the Hokies don’t win this one, then we’re likely in for a long losing streak. Miami, UNC and Maryland loom on the horizon after Sunday’s game.