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Clemson Basketball: Virginia Preview

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Clemson heads to Charlottesville to restart the ACC schedule...prepare your rocks for the fight.

Syndication: The Greenville News Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Clemson (8-4) vs Virginia (7-4)

Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: ACC Network
Location: John Paul Jones Arena - Charlottesville, Virginia

Clemson

The Tigers enter the game on a three game winning streak, including their last victory over “rivals” South Carolina. The three game win streak hasn’t been a thing a beauty, but it was much needed after the two game skid against Rutgers and Miami. I expected this to be a “hot and cold” season, and I’m not disappointed.

Key Stats

*rankings are national

Offense

Adjusted Efficiency: 110.4 (28th)

Effective Field Goal %: 55.2 (23rd)

Three Point %: - 41.4 (5th)

Defense

Adjusted Efficiency: 96.7 (90th)

2 Point %: 45.5 (63rd)

Free Throw %: 80.3 (355th)

The offense is stunningly efficient (for a Brad Brownell team at least) and the perimeter shooting is elite. It’s all about avoiding scoring lulls (a Clemson specialty even when things are going great on offense), keeping P.J. Hall out of foul trouble, and limiting turnovers. The offense is humming, but it is occasionally short circuited (cough, Miami, cough) because the veteran guards throw the ball away.

These stats are an inverse of a normal Clemson team. The offense is great, the defense is average. The interior is particularly troublesome. If a team commits to scoring in the post, there isn’t much Clemson can do. Hall is a solid defender, but he can’t get in foul trouble, which limits his naturally aggressive style. Tyson is a wing moonlighting as a power forward, and Naz Bohannon is a burley, but shorter guy (6-6) playing a weird wing/post hybrid. They’ve also been fairly unlucky. Teams are shooting 80% from the line against the Tigers (Miami - 15/17, West Virginia - 9/11, St. Bonaventure - 8/8). A few misses in close games would go a long way in securing victories.

This isn’t a bad Clemson team, in fact, it is one of the more competent offensive teams Brad Brownell has fielded at Clemson. At the same point, it’s flawed. PJ Hall is the only center ready to play, the guards are of the small variety, and David Collins is the only “wing” on the roster. Things need to go right on several fronts for this team to win. Those things haven’t gone right against teams with similar talent....yet.

Virginia

This isn’t a good UVA team. In fact, it might be a bad UVA team. They’ve split their last 4 games with wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Pitt and losses to Iowa and James Madison. Their normally elite defense is only good, and their offense is an affront to basketball. They have talent, but not enough to play poorly and win.

Key Stats

Offense

Adjusted Tempo: 58.5 (358th)

Average Possession Length: 20.1 (353rd)

3 Point %: 32.1 (218th)

Defense

Average Possession Length: 19.4 (358th)

Effective Field Goal %: 45.2 (47th)

Two Point %: 42.7 (16th)

The offense is the slowest in the NCAA. They don’t start looking for a shot until the shot clock is under 10 seconds. That’s nothing new, but they don’t have the shot makers to pull it off this year. If you’re offensive is predicated on guys hitting shots late in the clock...you need guys that can hit shots late in the clock. In a way, this reminds me of a few extremely frustrating Clemson teams that consisted of lock down defenders at every position and not a single reliable scorer.

The defense is always tough. They make teams try and grind out possessions and dominate the lane with their pack line defense. Unlike most teams, they want you to drive the ball, because they swarm ball handlers and force turnovers. They block a bunch of shots (16% block percentage; 15th in the nation), and generally frustrate teams around the rim. Their perimeter defense has slipped some this year, allowing teams to shoot 32.6% (159th). At least there is a crack in the armor this year.

Key Matchup

Hunter Tyson/Naz Bohannon vs Jayden Gardner

Tyson and Bohannon don’t need to win this matchup, but they need to compete with Virginia’s best player. Gardner is a 6-6, 245 pound man beast transfer from Eastern Carolina. He leads UVA in points with 15.3 points a game, and does all his damage in the lane. He’s going to try and bury Tyson in the post on late shot isolation plays. If he gets deep position, it’s all over. You either have to foul him or let him have the basket. Tyson is going to have to do his work early and keep that from happening.

I actually like Bohannon better against Gardner on defense. Physically, they’re almost clones of each other. Both are undersized power players that are adept at rooting out taller players with their lower bodies. Bohannon is going to recognize what Gardener does on offense, because it’s what he likes to do on offense when he looks to score in paint. Hall will get first shot at him, but don’t be surprised if Bohannon gets more run than usual and Tyson logs more minutes at center in relief of Hall.

NCAA Basketball: Fairleigh Dickinson at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball: Fairleigh Dickinson at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Wins If...

The guards make late shot clock shots and don’t turn the ball over. Dawes/Honor/Collins/Hemenway will either win or lose this game for Clemson. Turnovers are killer against UVA because you won’t see the ball from another 30 seconds. It’s breaks up the game and it’s hard to get into a flow. Clemson’s guards have to remain patient, and they have to hit open shots. It’s that simple. This UVA is beatable. In fact, Clemson would be favored if this game was at Littlejohn. They’ve yet to seal the deal against decent P5 teams. Tonight would be a nice start. A win at UVA would make the Miami debacle a little less season crushing.

UVA Win If...

They make everyone hate college basketball. This team has to win ugly. If this is a referendum on offense, they lose. Clemson is decent a speeding teams up with their attack. UVA must refuse to play fun, aesthetically pleasing basketball.

Also, like every team on Clemson’s schedule, if they can get PJ Hall into foul trouble early, the game will be much easier. I expect them to try to get Hall on Gardner, and when that happens, look for them to throw the ball into the paint and let him work.

Prediction

KenPom:
UVA 61 - Clemson 59

Drew:
UVA 57 - Clemson 61

I’m going out on a limb and calling the mild Clemson upset (Clemson is the higher ranked KenPom team, if you can believe that). This team has enough shot makers to get the job done, and UVA’s offense is dreadful...

This, of course, means, UVA is going to score 100 points tonight while going 20/20 from deep.