Date: Sunday, January 22
Virginia Tech is about to embark on its most difficult stretch of the season. The Hokies play six of their next eight games on the road, including four of the next five. It all starts tonight in Littlejohn Coliseum when Tech takes on the Clemson Tigers.
Here’s what the upcoming schedule looks like…
at Clemson (11-7, 1-5)
at #9 UNC (18-3, 6-1)
vs. Boston College (9-11, 2-5)
at #16 UVA (15-3, 5-2)
at Miami (12-6, 2-4)
vs. #16 UVA (15-3, 5-2)
at Pitt (12-7, 1-5)
at #12 Louisville (16-4, 4-3)
The Hokies then play three of their final four games at home, which is much more manageable, but they need to manage to steal a win or two on the road in the upcoming stretch to keep their heads above water.
The stretch begins with Clemson, who has had a disappointing run in the ACC thus far. After knocking off Wake Forest 73-68 in Winston-Salem to begin conference play, the Tigers have lost five consecutive games…
vs. UNC (89-86, OT)
at Notre Dame (75-70)
at Georgia Tech (75-63)
vs. UVA (77-73)
at Louisville (92-60)
Despite their record, Clemson has come very close to defeating very good teams such as UNC, Notre Dame and UVA. They also defeated South Carolina, currently the #24 ranked team in the country, 62-60 on the road during the non-conference portion of their schedule. Ken Pomeroy ranks Clemson’s schedule as the second toughest in the country, so they are battle tested. Needless to say, this will be a very difficult game to win, as most ACC road games are.
The Tigers have a very experienced starting lineup.
G Shelton Mitchell (6-3, 195, r-So.): 8.1 ppg, 3.3 apg, transfer from Vanderbilt
G Avry Holmes (6-2, 195, r-Sr.): 11.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, transfer from San Francisco
F Donte Grantham (6-8, 215, Jr.): 9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg
F Jaron Blossomgame (6-7, 220, r-Sr.): 17.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 20 blocks
C Sidy Djitte (6-10, 240, Sr.): 6.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg
The Tigers have a pair of redshirt-seniors, a true senior and a junior in their starting lineup, and even their sophomore is a third-year player.
Blossomgame is Clemson’s best player, and overall he’s one of the top players in the ACC. He declared for the NBA Draft last season, but did not hire an agent and returned to school. Virginia Tech must keep Blossomgame off the offensive glass, and they must do their best to limit him to outside jumpers. He’s just 9-of-51 (17.6%) from three-point range this year, so that is not a strength of his game. However, he’s capable of making those shots if the Hokies leave him open. Last year he was 45-of-101 (48%) from the outside, and his regression in that area has been very surprising.
Much has been made about Virginia Tech’s size in the frontcourt, or lack thereof. Clemson is a team that is built in a similar fashion. Besides starting center Sidy Djitte, the Tigers have just one player in the rotation who is taller than 6-7. That’s backup forward Elijah Thomas (6-9, 230, So.), who averages 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Win, lose or draw, the Hokies are not at a distinct size disadvantage tonight.
Virginia Tech must take advantage of Clemson’s defensive issues. The Tigers have allowed an average of 81.6 points per game in their five ACC losses. In the last two games, Clemson has allowed UVA and Louisville to shoot 58% and 56.3% from the field, respectively. That type of defense won’t get it done in ACC play, and you can bet that head coach Brad Brownell has been working hard this week to fix those problems. The Hokies have shown that they are capable of putting up a lot of points, and they need to do so tonight.
Tonight’s game starts at 6:30pm, and it will be televised by ESPNU.