Date: Tuesday, December 14
TV: ACC Network
Last Tuesday night, Virginia Tech was run out of Cassell Coliseum by Penn State in its first loss of the 2020-21 season. Now, after a week to rebound, the Hokies (4-1) welcome No. 24 Clemson (5-0) to Cassell Coliseum to begin ACC play.
Both of these teams have exceeded preseason expectations in the first three weeks of the season. Clemson and Virginia Tech were selected 10th and 11th in the ACC, respectively, by the media before the season. This hasn’t stopped both teams from spending time in the AP Poll.
The Hokies jumped into the top-15 following four straight wins to begin the year. However, after the 20-point defeat against the Nittany Lions, Tech fell out of the rankings in Monday’s poll.
This is the result of back-to-back poor offensive performances from Mike Young’s group. After shooting just 35% against VMI, the Hokies turned in a 37% performance against PSU and added 14 turnovers. In the last two games, Tech has combined to shoot 10-of-47 from beyond the arc.
This type of offensive performance won’t cut it against Clemson on Tuesday evening. The Tigers have been one of the surprise teams of the early season under Head Coach Brad Brownell. Clemson has faced four Power 5 teams in its first five games and hasn’t had any struggles, winning by an average of 11.5 points.
Clemson’s early success has been on the back of its defense. Among teams that have played multiple games, the Tigers have allowed the least points per game at 51.4. Opponents are shooting just below 35% against them through five games.
Tech looked lost for most of last week’s game against Penn State, who had just allowed Seton Hall to score 84 points in regulation two days prior. The Hokies will have to have a much cleaner game offensively against what has been the best defensive team in the country early in the season.
Offensively, Clemson doesn’t have one dominant player. Only senior forward Aamir Simms is scoring in double figures this season, and the Tigers are averaging just 68 points per game.
Against the Nittany Lions, the Hokies gave up three-pointers at over a 50% clip, but the Tigers aren’t much of a risk to rain it in from downtown. Clemson is shooting just over 32% from three-point range, and only sophomore Nick Honor has made more than six three’s this year (10).
Brownell and Young are familiar with each other, having faced off four times since Brownell began his career with Clemson in 2010. When Young was with Wofford, the Tigers were 2-0 against the Terriers.
However, last year, Young’s Hokies got the better of Brownell and Clemson. Tech won both matchups between the schools, including a 67-60 victory on the road to start out Young’s time in Blacksburg.
The Hokies look to grab their first conference win of the year against the Tigers once again on Tuesday night and bounce back before two final non-conference games ahead of Christmas.
This should be the closest that Tech has been to full strength this season, although the Hokies will still be missing sophomore center John Ojiako for another two weeks. The rest of the roster should be available, as Jalen Cone will play in his third consecutive game and Hunter Cattoor returns to full strength after missing time with strep throat last week.