Virginia Tech Begins Stretch Run by Hosting Clemson

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Brad Brownell and the Tigers are fighting for a postseason berth. (Ivan Morozov)
Brad Brownell and the Tigers are fighting for a postseason berth. (Ivan Morozov)

Date: February 21
Time: 7pm
TV: ESPNU

Virginia Tech (18-8, 7-7) returns to action tonight in Cassell Coliseum when they face the Clemson Tigers (14-12, 4-10).  The Hokies are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and though you wouldn’t know it from their record, so are the Tigers.

Tech defeated Clemson 82-81 in Littlejohn Coliseum back on January 22.  That was one of many close ACC losses the Tigers have suffered this season.

L vs. UNC: 89-86 (OT)
L at Notre Dame: 75-70
L vs. Virginia: 77-73
L vs. VirginiaTech: 82-81
L vs. Syracuse: 82-81
L at Duke: 64-62
L at Miami: 71-65

Outside of Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson lacks difference makers.  As a result, Brad Brownell could join Mark Gottfried on the latest list of ex-ACC coaches at the conclusion of the season.

Despite all that, and their 14-12 (4-10 ACC) record, the Tigers are still #60 in the RPI with the #17 strength of schedule.  That means that if they get on a decent run to end the season, they will have the computer numbers to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.  Believe it or not, their schedule is favorable…

at Virginia Tech
vs. FSU
vs. NC State
vs. Boston College

Clemson must travel to Virginia Tech, but they played the Hokies close in the first meeting.  Their final three games are in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum.  If the Tigers can manage to win three of their final four ACC games, and then win a game in the ACC Tournament, they’ll have 18 total wins, a top 50 RPI ranking, and probably a top 20 strength of schedule rating.  They could certainly have an argument for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament.

Not only do the RPI numbers indicate that Clemson is a good team, check out their Pomeroy efficiency ratings when compared to Virginia Tech.  First, Clemson…

Overall: #38
Offense: #29
Defense: #79

Now, the Hokies…

Overall: #46
Offense: #31
Defense: #100

The Massey Ratings have the Hokies at #37 and the Tigers at #43.

Here is Clemson’s projected starting lineup…

G Shelton Mitchell (6-3, 195, r-So.): 9.2 ppg, 3.8 asp.  Mitchell leads the team with 83 assists.
G Avry Holmes (6-2, 195, r-Sr.): 11.2 ppg, 45% three-point shooter
F Donte Grantham (6-8, 215, Jr.): 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F Jaron Blossomgame (6-7, 215, r-Sr.): 17.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg
F Elijah Thomas (6-9, 230, So.): 7.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg

All of Clemson’s starters (with the exception of Thomas) are capable three-point shooters, with Holmes being the most dangerous.  Marcquise Reed (6-3, 185, r-So.) is also a 41.9% three-point shooter, and he plays 21 minutes per game off the bench.

The Tigers went 13-of-27 (48.1%) from three-point range during the first meeting with Tech, which nearly ruined a good road performance by the Hokies.  However, they have shot just 32.7% from the outside in ACC road games this season.  That includes a 5-of-26 (19.2%) performance in their last two road games.  Tech would obviously love that type of performance by Clemson tonight.

In the first meeting, Tech outrebounded the Tigers 32-29.  It was one of just two ACC games in which the Hokies have outrebounded the opposition, and they won both of those games (UVA being the other).  Unlike some other ACC teams the Hokies face, Clemson does not have a big team, and they will spend quite a bit of the game playing small like Tech.  If the Hokies can gain the advantage on the glass, they would negate their biggest weakness, and limit Clemson’s second chance opportunities.  The Tigers outscored Tech only 11-7 in second chance points in the first meeting, and if that number is similar tonight then the Hokies stand a great chance to pick up the win.

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