When: 7:00pm ET
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Virginia
How to Watch: ESPNU & the WatchESPN App.
The Clemson Tigers (14-12) (4-10) return to action on Tuesday evening as they travel to Blacksburg Virginia to take on the Hokies of Virginia Tech (18-8) (7-7) in a crucial ACC contest on National Television. The two teams met earlier this season in Littlejohn Coliseum where Virginia Tech pulled out an 82-81 victory over the Tigers thanks to a strong performance from Seth Allen. Overall, the series between the two schools is very even (Virginia Tech leads 17-15) and Clemson has four road victories under its belt against the Hokies.
The Tigers enter the contest losers of 4 of their last 5 games with 3 of those loses coming by 6 points or less, including their most recent outing where they dropped a 71-65 decision on the road in Coral Gables to the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon. It is no coincidence that the Tigers recent struggles coincide with the lack of performance from two key players, Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe. Grantham has all but put on a disappearing act as of late as he has made only 7 field goals in the past 5 games, while shooting only 28% from the field during that time and going scoreless in 2 of those contests. On the other end, DeVoe has gone cold from behind the arc, shooting only 4-of-17 from three point range in the previous 5 games, but has made his presence known on the defensive glass despite dwindling minutes.
With Clemson looking for some players to pick up the slack, two of the Clemson transfers have answered the call, in the forms of Elijah Thomas and Marcquise Reed. Thomas recorded his second double-double in ACC play on Saturday afternoon and has taken over the role of starting Center for the Tigers over Sidy Djitte while providing much needed scoring in the post. Thomas still has a lot of work to do defensively (particularly his pick-and-roll defense) but he gives the Tigers a much needed scoring option that is lacking with Djitte on the floor. Marcquise Reed, dubbed the “Microwave Man” (can we please get him a new nickname…) has lived up to his instant offense tag, averaging 13ppg in the Tigers last 5 contests, including 21 points against Wake Forest, the Tigers only win during that span.
The Hokies enter the contest after dropping a close contest on the road at #7 Louisville by a score of 94-90 and there is no shortage of offense when it comes to this basketball team. The Hokies have five players averaging double figures, led by Zach LeDay, averaging 15.3ppg and adding 7rpg to his stat line. The Tigers managed to keep LeDay somewhat in check during their last meeting as he dropped 16 points (mostly during one spurt) and will have to keep him off the offensive glass if they want to pull out a win on the road. The Virginia Tech player to watch in this game is Seth Allen. The sharpshooter from Woodbridge, VA is coming off a 25 point performance on the road against Louisville where he went 6-of-8 from behind the arc. Clemson struggled with Allen in their earlier contest as he dropped 17 points and went 3-of-5 from behind the arc.
The key to this game comes down to the defensive effort from the Tigers, in particular, their perimeter defense. Clemson has allowed 4 of the last 5 teams that they have faced to shoot 50% or higher from the floor and they are entering a hostile environment where Virginia Tech plays very well. During ACC play, the Hokies are 5-1 at Cassell Coliseum, with wins over Duke and Notre Dame. I know few fans want to hear it right now, but Clemson is not out of the NCAA tournament picture as their RPI remains high due to their strength of schedule (4th in the country) and a strong finish to the season could put the Tigers squarely on the bubble. For now, the Tigers will try to solve the Hokies and keep their tournament hopes alive.
Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for your game recaps, and conversation about the Tigers future.