Clemson at Virginia Tech
Clemson (11-10, 3-4) at Virginia Tech (12-10, 1-6), 4:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Even the fans of each school won’t enjoy watching this game, right? Although if Clemson wins this one, they have a legitimate chance to go 8-8 in league, something that seemed very unlikely even a week ago. But the Tigers continue to fight, nearly stealing a win at Virginia without star forward Milton Jennings (suspended for academic reasons). Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has lost three straight at home for the first time under head coach Seth Greenberg. Do the Hokies have anything left mentally at this point? As 2011 ended with a win at Oklahoma State, the Hokies were 11-3 and still had a chance to make the NCAA tournament. They’ve lost six of the last seven games since.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Without Milton Jennings, Clemson was annihilated on the backboards by Virginia. The Tigers had been one of the best teams in the country in terms of not allowing opponents to get second looks, but that has slipped in recent games. In the last four games, Clemson has a defensive rebounding percentage of 63.2% after posting a 70.3% in the first three games. Their offensive rebounding percentage has also fallen way down from 35.6% in their first three games to 25.4% in the last four. And they’ve been out-rebounded by an average of nine rebounds a game in that span and outscored in second-chance points 43-31. The Tigers need to rebound better against a Virginia Tech team that has had problems in that area on and off all season. The Hokies have collected just 27% of their misses in ACC play (11th in the league) and, even worse, have a defensive rebounding percentage of 63% (worst in the league). The Hokies’ defense actually hasn’t been half bad but if they keep allowing opponents to get second looks (they’ve been outscored 79-64 in league play in that category) it will have all been for nothing.
Most important players: Victor Davila, Virginia Tech and Tanner Smith, Clemson. Andre Young struggled against Virginia, but Clemson nearly won anyway because Tanner Smith stepped up with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-of-5 from three), adding three assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes. The senior has struggled some in ACC play shooting the ball but he’s averaging 12.3 points and his all-around game has been a huge plus for Clemson. He’s averaging 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and two steals in league play and he’s making 44% of his three’s, including 6-of-9 in the last two games and 11-of-20 in the last four games. He’s struggled with turnovers at times but in the last three games he has 11 assists and three turnovers. In a game that should be close, the kinds of things Smith provides could put Clemson over the top.
Victor Davila hasn’t always been assertive, but the senior has been much more consistent in that regard in recent games. In the last three games, Davila has averaged 14 points on 71.4% shooting (75% from the foul line), adding 6.3 rebounds in 27.3 minutes. He’s also attempting seven shots and 5.3 foul shots a game in that span. In the previous 22 games, Davila averaged 6.5 points on 52.1% shooting (61% from the foul line) and averaged 3.8 rebounds in 21.8 minutes. He attempted 4.9 shots and 2.3 free throws in that span. Virginia Tech lacks a lot of size (or at least size that can score) and Davila is really the only Virginia Tech big guy who has proven himself capable of scoring in ACC games. He could have an advantage on the inside against Clemson, which will be without Milton Jennings. But the Hokies need him to exploit it.
Random stat: Ken Pomeroy calculates all kinds of statistics, and one of them is Luck (which you can see for free here). “Luck” is basically the difference in winning percentage between a team’s record and their expected record. Clemson is last in the ACC and 342nd nationally (out of 345 teams) in Luck at -.125. Virginia Tech is second to last in the league and 335th nationally at -.104. Pomeroy has Clemson at 93rd in his rankings and Virginia Tech at 53rd. Clemson is 167th in the RPI and Virginia Tech is 88th.
Prediction: Clemson 67, Virginia Tech 61
Last week: 12-0
Season: 96-31 (32-12 ACC)