When: Saturday at noon
Where: The John
Well, such is life as a Tiger basketball fan. One week the team looks like it is turning a corner and then two losses later you feel like things are back to square one. The loss to Notre Dame was a serious gut punch considering the Tigers were in great position to notch a major resume win. The defense held the powerful Irish offense to just 60 points, but the Tigers just couldn't score enough to make it matter. I won't belabor the point, so let's see what's next.
Meet the Hokies: Really the only notable thing about VT is their new head coach Buzz Williams. In a very surprising hire (at least for me), VT was able to pluck Williams from a much more established Marquette program. I said at the time that it was a real coup for a program that appeared to have serious egg on its face after running off
Uncle Fester Seth Greenburg. While Seth was no gentleman and had failed to get the Hokies off the NCAA bubble, his departure began a plummet for VT resembling the Larry Shyatt era at Clemson. While Williams has begun to instill the trademark scrappy play that was common of his Marquette team, the Hokies remain undermanned and have predictably struggled in ACC play and stand at 2-9. However, they have been a tough out lately and nearly pulled off an incredible upset of powerful UVA. That was followed by an OT victory over Pitt and consecutive losses to Wake and Syracuse by a combined 5 points. The Hokies managed to beat Georgia Tech by two in their last outing, so they are playing better basketball at the moment and Clemson can't just show up and win by any means.
VT is led in scoring by Adam Smith at 13.5 ppg and Justin Bibbs at 12.9. Post Joey Van Zegeren gave the Tigers some problems in the past and will be another guy to keep an eye on. VT lacks sufficient depth but if their main guys can stay out of foul trouble, they have shown they can compete. Their biggest issue is rebounding the basketball as KenPom has them at 298th in offensive rebounding and 346th in defensive rebounding. This is clearly an area Clemson should take advantage of on Saturday. VT will likely zone the Tigers a good bit so it will be important for Clemson to move the ball, attack the gaps, and make open jumpers enough to allow their defense to take care of business. Hopefully Rod Hall is getting back to normal with his shoulder so the team can get back to what it was doing prior to the injury at Miami.
Lastly, it was good to see Jaron Blossomgame and Damarcus Harrison pull out of offensive slumps against Notre Dame, but the fact that no Tiger seems to be able to maintain an offensive presence for a long stretch of games has proven a little problematic. This is probably the area where the loss of K.J. McDaniels continues to haunt the team. The defense has gotten close to the form seen last season after struggling a bit (for Brownell standards) in the first part of the season. For the Tigers to make a late run at something, somebody has to be counted on for 13-18 point production night in and night out. It remains to be seen if that will happen this season. Needless to say, the Tigers must win this game or even the NIT becomes a major question mark going forward. KenPom is giving us a healthy 81% chance.