It certainly is sweet when you write up a "Clemson wins if" blurb and they actually do those things and win. Such was the case in the big win over Duke last weekend. Now the Tigers are in great shape to put together a little winning streak prior to the road trip of death I talked about in the Duke preview. Needless to say, when you have what is supposed to be a stretch 4 play like a stretch 4, like Blossomgame did last game, the entire team takes on a different offensive look. The few times Milton Jennings was hitting shots and playing well, it also felt that way. Milton could never be consistent, so here's hoping Jaron can find a way to give us something in the neighborhood of that 14 and 14 outing more than once in a 10 game stretch.
This is such a winnable game, even on the road, that it gives you pause. This is because you just can't ever tell in this crazy game that is now largely dominated by underclassmen. VT features Jarrell Eddie (who it feels like has been there forever) who is a big wing player with 3 point range. He leads the way for VT at 16.1 points per game and is shooting a very strong 45% from downtown. I fully expect Brad to have KJ McDaniels checking Eddie and we should feel good about that matchup. KJ gives up about 2 inches but we all know he more than makes up for that with his long arms, timing, and quick hops.
I was somewhat surprised to see that Cadarian Raines hasn't been more of a factor for the Hokies because he showed real flashes last year. VT relies more on the 3 pointer than Clemson, so it will be important for the Tigers to continue what has been a very good year defending the 3 point line. Winning the battle of the boards is also a big key to victory. I wouldn't expect the kind of disparity we saw in the Duke game, but in most cases Clemson can do well in this area when Nnoko is clear of foul trouble.
VT did steal a win at Miami, who appears to be a little better team than what I thought they would be (their coach is very good), so you have to be careful with them. I watched that game in Coral Gables and VT sprung the upset with some key stops down the stretch though neither team executed offensively very well at all in the latter stages.
I fully expect VT to struggle to score against the Tiger defense, so it should really come down to Clemson taking care of the basketball and making some shots in the half court sets. If Jaron can get the opposing 4 man pulled away from the rim, the driving opportunities for Hall and KJ are going to be that much better. If the Tigers can get Eddie in foul trouble, VT is going to have some major problems most likely. It will be interesting to see who James Johnson matches him up with. VT might employ more zone defense than what the Tigers are used to seeing, and to be honest, I'm a little surprised Clemson hasn't seen more of this from the opposition. FSU doesn't have to zone with their shot blockers, but I know several on here noted Duke switching out of the zone when it appeared to be really bothering Clemson after KJ hit a 3 as being a mistake. I would have to agree with that assessment myself. Bottom line is this game has to be won if Clemson is going to get to the middle of the road in the ACC (the target for securing an NIT birth). Clemson hopefully learned its lesson in the Auburn game that you have to finish people on the road when you have the chance. Win this game and things are looking good with a beatable Wake Forest team coming into Littlejohn.