When: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 8:00pm EST
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV: ACC Network, ESPN3 (Blacked out in the upstate and Atlanta)
Clemson has completely turned around their season. After losing in Chapel Hill, they were 7-6 and outside of KenPom's top 75. An NIT berth seemed wildly optimistic at that time. Clemson has since tallied five straight ACC wins against some of the top team's in the conference. Their three straight wins against ranked teams are a first in Tiger basketball history. They're not overrated opponents either. KenPom ranks Louisville, Duke, and Miami as #6, #16, and #15, respectively. Those three wins were at home though. The Tigers will hit the road for the first time since their OT win over Syracuse (the Tigers' lone road win).
Virginia is 13-3 with a perfect 8-0 home record. In those wins are victories over Villanova (KenPom #1), Notre Dame, and Miami. They play an extremely methodical and efficient brand of basketball. Clemson plays at a fairly low tempo (often to my chagrin as they sometimes sit on the ball and wait too long to begin their offense), but Virginia plays the lowest tempo in NCAA basketball.
As you'd expect, Virginia may be slow but they're incredibly efficient. They rank 10th in turnovers per possession (only 14.6%) and they're an excellent three-point shooting team (39.5%).
Unlike many of the top teams who win with one-and-done freshman, Virginia boasts two excellent seniors. The 6'5" Malcom Brogdon is heavily utilized in the offense. He can do it all from the SG spot and will pose a huge challenge defensively for either Roper or Holmes. The 6'8" Anthony Gill transferred from South Carolina after one unpleasant (I assume) year. He's an excellent PF with athleticism like Jaron Blossomgame. He finishes around the rim and is - of course - rather efficient.
It will be tough for the Tigers to win on the road, but they've proven to be a tough out for anyone. KenPom gives them an 11% chance, and while I don't think the Tigers pick-up this win, Clemson basketball has suddenly become can't miss entertainment for Clemson fans. The Tigers are in second place in the ACC behind UNC. Currently 5-1, if they can just reach 6-3, they'll be lightyears ahead of where everyone expected as their conference schedule eases up. A win here would go a long way toward erasing some of the non-conference miscues though!