Date, Time, TV: Wednesday, March 4, 7pm, The ACC Network
Virginia Tech (15-14, 6-12) hosts Clemson (15-13, 9-9) in the final home game of the 2019-20 basketball season tonight in Cassell Coliseum. Though they’ve been mired in a slump recently, the Hokies will be looking to end their season on a positive note, and that starts with a home game against a team they have already beaten this season…all the way back on November 5 in the first game of Mike Young’s tenure. It’s also Senior Night for VT, and the lone senior – graduate transfer Branden Johnson – will be honored.
The Tigers have been an up and down team this season, with lots of peaks and valleys along the way. After losing to Tech to start the year, they ran off five consecutive wins, including a neutral site victory over TCU. They then proceeded to lose four games in a row, and six of their next seven. After that awful stretch, they won three straight games over NC State, UNC and Duke. That winning streak came before a stretch that saw them lose five of their next seven. After that, the Tigers got hot again and won four of their next five games, with wins over Louisville and Florida State.
Clemson has been the model of inconsistency this year, and just because they’ve won four of their last five games doesn’t mean that things won’t come crashing down for them very soon. In fact, considering how their season has gone so far, it would be a surprise if things didn’t turn in the opposite direction in their next game or two.
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The Tigers are an experienced team, though some of that experience comes in the form of grad transfers as Brad Brownell sought a quick fix to replace so many veterans from his 2018-19 team.
G Clyde Trapp (6-4, 194, Jr.): 6.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg. Trapp is a poor shooter, going 37.5% from the field and 26.4% from three-point range.
G Al-Amir Dawes (6-2, 180, Fr.): 9 ppg, 2.6 apg. Dawes averages 30 minutes per game as a freshman, though he’s struggled shooting the ball, going 38.7% overall and 31.7% from the outside.
G John Newman III (6-5, 197, So.): 9.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg. Newman led Clemson with 15 points in the first meeting between these teams.
F Tevin Mack (6-6, 227, r-Sr.): 12.1 ppt, 5.4 rpg. Other transfers Brownell brought in have struggled, but Mack, a former Alabama player, has started 26 of 28 games and had a very good season.
F Aamir Simms (6-8, 240, Jr.): 13.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg. The Fluvanna County, VA native is Clemson’s most dangerous player.
Though not the tallest team in the league, the Tigers’ frontcourt duo of Mack and Simms has the potential to pose major problems for the Hokies.
Clemson has been limited on the offensive end of the court, though they have been very strong defensively. Here are their offensive numbers, per Ken Pomeroy…
Adjusted Off. Efficiency: No. 148
Effective FG%: No. 129
Turnover %: No. 158
3-Pt.%: No. 233
2-Pt.%: No. 53
FT%: No. 291
The Tigers struggle with basic shooting, as their three-point and free throw numbers indicate. They compound matters by turning the ball over too much. However, they are effective around the basket, which means that it’s key that the Hokies limit their ability to get the ball in the paint and force Clemson to settle for jump shots from the outside.
Defensively, the Tigers will be a tough nut to crack…
Adjusted Def. Efficiency: No. 31
Effective FG%: No. 96
Opp. Turnover %: No. 118
3-Pt.%: No. 111
2-Pt.%: No. 103
Clemson doesn’t stand out in any individual metric defensively, but they are above average at everything. The result is that they’ve been an overall good defensive team this season.
In terms of tempo, Clemson ranks No. 298 nationally while the Hokies are No. 310. It’s likely that Wednesday night’s game will be low-scoring, and if Tech’s recent home games are any indication, it will be decided very late.