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Hoops Preview: Clemson at Virginia Tech

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Clemson needs a bounce back game in Blacksburg

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

The 15th ranked, 20-6 (for anyone preaching doom and despair, this is a good record for a basketball team) Clemson Tigers head into Blacksburg, Va in need of a bounce back game after a crushing defeats to FSU and Duke last week.

Losing is tough, losing in the last two minutes is devastating, but, this Clemson team has been resilient in the face of adversity all season, and I expect nothing but their best effort on Wednesday night.

Clemson will be short handed, with Grantham out for the year and Mitchell out with a concussion after receiving an elbow after releasing a shot that the officials somehow missed, but I doubt the Hokies have any sympathy, and probably won’t agree to spot us any points.

Who: Virginia Tech
What: Basketball, a sport involving a bouncing ball
When: 7 PM
What Channel: Regional Sports Network (local listings)

V. Tech So Far:

Record: 19-8 (8-6 in ACC play)

PPG: 82.3 (31st Nationally)

Rebounds per Game: 33.5 (277th)

Assists per Game: 17.1 (18th)

Points Allowed: 72.6 (182nd)

Key Advanced Analytic Stat: 2nd Nationally in effective FG%

Virginia Tech broke the bank in bringing in human sweat machine Buzz Peterson to Virginia Tech from Marquette, and the returns have been good so far.

Virginia Tech and Clemson are similar basketball programs. They are a smallish, rural school, that is known for football, competing in the premier basketball conference in the nation.

Like Clemson, Virginia Tech has begun sinking resources into the basketball program recently, and have seen their fortunes improve. It looks like they are going to make the NCAA tournament in back to back years for the first time since 85-86.

Key Players:

Justin Robinson: 13.7 PPG, 5.7 AST

Robinson is the straw that stirs the Hokies drink. Stop Robinson (like Duke did holding him to 5 points and 5 assists) and you’ll stop Virginia Tech. Let Robinson go crazy (like Virginia did, giving up 20 and 7) and the Hokies will roll.

Shelton Mitchell has the size and athleticism to bother Robinson, but he remains in concussion protocol. Without Mitchell, it’s going to be the Reed/Devoe combo attempting to stop the premier point guard in the ACC.

If we have to go with Reed/Devoe, it would be in our best interest to play off, and hope Robinson (40% on the year) is cold from 3. If we let him get in the lane and run the offense from there, he is death, and he will kill Clemson.

The game will be won or lost on this match up.

Kerry Blackshear: 12.7 PPG, 6 REB

Blackshear is the beef in the middle for the Hokies, and he’s a load at 6’10”, 260. Virginia Tech is a depressingly bad rebounding team, but if anyone on the team is going to grab a rebound, it’s going to be Blackshear. Take Balckshear out of the game, and the Tigers might be able to make a living on the offensive boards.

Blackshear and Eli are going to be grinding down low all game. Blackshear isn’t a guy that’s going to go straight post up and beat you. He’s a guy that’s going to get dump off passes in the lane from Robinson, and score on put backs. That said, he’s really good at that and Eli can’t over help and give up and open dunk instead of making a Hokie guard put in a contested lay up.

I expect Clemson to try and dump the ball into Eli early and try to get Blackshear in foul trouble. He can be foul prone, and Eli has the sort of offensive game that tends to draw fouls. If Clemson can get Blackshear off the court, things get much easier on the boards and the lane opens up for the Clemson offense.

Overall:

If Mitchell was back, this game would be a toss up.

Virginia Tech is a good team that plays hard on a game to game basis. I don’t think the Tigers are going to spring a surprise on the Hokies. They are going to bring it at home, and if Clemson wants it, they’re going to have to take it and respond.

Justin Robinson is a problem. I can’t stress that enough. He’s a problem if Mitchell can play, and he’s a monumental problem if Mitchell can’t play. He carries the Hokies. Even though Virginia Tech is a fairly balanced scoring team overall, if Robinson isn’t scoring, they struggle. If he is scoring, it opens up the game for everyone else, because Robinson is a willing passer and gets the Hokies a bunch of easy shots.

I expect Clemson to bring their A game after a tough week, but I’m not sure it’s going to be enough.

Prediction:

KenPom gives Clemson a 46% chance to win. That doesn’t consider Shelton Mitchell’s injury. If Mitchell was available, I’d take the Tigers, but with him out (we miss Ty Hudson now)...

Clemson: 72 V. Tech 81