Where: at UVA
TV: ACC Network (aka Raycom)
After the Tigers' surprising performance at Pittsburgh, all I can say is this:
Now, just like I advised that we not get too crazy over a bad loss to UNC, I would also advise that this last game is not one we can point to as the turning point in the season necessarily. There were some very encouraging signs, such as the continued improvement of Jaron Blossomgame and the excellent rebounding effort by the team, but we simply cannot expect the 3 point shooting and offensive work out of Djitte to repeat itself (though we can certainly hope for it). The good news is the team still got very little out of Landry Nnoko and won, so there is the fact that Nnoko has played a lot better and can give the team a lot more. Unfortunately, the team now has to deal with the undefeated Cavaliers.
Overview: UVA is really the type of team Clemson aspires to be under Brad Brownell. Everything Brownell has tried to instill into his program has been done at a higher level by Coach Bennett. The Cavs play tremendous defense, largely with man to man, and are an efficient half court offensive squad with good balance of outside threats and inside presence. In a sense, it is like the old version of the Terminator facing a newer, better model. The older version might win, but it will take unbelievable grit and fight.
It is hard to imagine the Tigers being able to generate much offense against a team with the defensive power of UVA. The Cavs have already held 4 teams to under 40 points and 2 under 30, including Harvard who has made two straight NCAA tournaments. That is ridiculous considering there is a shot clock. The last time Clemson traveled to UVA it was a total beat down, and this road trip has been particularly unkind to the Tigers throughout the years. I'm no Tim Bourrett, but I am pretty sure half of the worst offensive performances in program history have taken place in Charlottesville. This is a very tall order for the Tigers tonight.
Meet the Wahoos: UVA again features balanced scoring and really has everybody back from last year that mattered except for Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. To this point, they have not felt those losses as they are again getting efficient point guard play from London Perrantes and balanced scoring from Brogdon, Anderson, Gill, and Tobey. Though the Cavs don't rebound as well as UNC and Louisville, they are still strong on the glass. They are also shooting just under 40% from 3 as a team, which is 10 percentage points higher than Clemson. It will certainly take one of the best, if not the best, shooting outing of the year for the Tigers to pull and upset. If nothing else, the Tigers will have to defend like the world is coming to an end and hope UVA can't get to 60 points. This has the potential to look like a very ugly game for the Tigers, but perhaps they can pull another rabbit out of the hat like they did on Saturday. However, make no mistake that UVA is a much better team than Pitt this season and even took 2 first place votes from mighty Kentucky in the latest poll.
Expectations: In games like this one, you have to gauge progress a little differently than just a win. The Tigers have less than a 5% chance to win this game (KenPom), so it is about progress. Can the bench produce better as it did the last time out? I have bemoaned the terrible bench production often this year but if it can start giving the team something, there will be a greater chance to get closer to the middle of the pack in the league. Can the Tigers hit open jumpers when they get them? Let's face it, the team is getting good looks from the perimeter in stretches and guys just need to knock them down. The fact the staff has tracked potential assists for Rod Hall shows how they are trying to emphasize the team getting some good looks that haven't been hit consistently. Can Landry Nnoko show up? It was nice to see Sidy Djitte add a little offense to his rebounding and defensive efforts, but we certainly can't expect him to bail Nnoko out consistently when he's a no show. Nnoko has to rediscover his confidence and avoid the silly fouls that have sent him to the bench for long stretches lately.
This post will serve as the gamethread as the game goes on, so blast away!