Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (19-9, 9-6 ACC) @ Clemson Tigers (19-10, 8-7 ACC)
When: Saturday, March 4 @ 12:00 p.m.
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
The Opponent: The Hokies finish off their regular season with a trip to Clemson, SC for a pivotal bubble battle against the Clemson Tigers. A win against Clemson Saturday would assure the Hokies of a much –needed first round bye in the ACC Tournament with the potential to be as high as the No. 3 seed. A loss Saturday puts Tech into the first round on Thursday with the possibility of being as low as the No. 6 seed.
This weekend, FSU plays at NC State and Boston College hosts Wake Forest. Here’s a full list of Tech’s tournament scenarios:
- No. 3 seed: VT win + FSU loss
- No. 4 seed: VT win + FSU win
- No. 5 seed: VT loss + BC loss
- No. 6 seed: VT loss + BC win
Obviously, this game has huge implications, as Clemson is attempting to make the NCAA Tournament and will be handling the emotions on Senior Day. The Tigers are coming off a 70-59 loss to Duke on Wednesday, but played extremely well on the road.
Tech will be looking to rebound from a dud of a game Tuesday against Boston College. Since losing to North Carolina on January 13, the Hokies have responded from every ACC loss with two straight conference wins, which is a good sign heading into Saturday.
Here's a look at Clemson's starting lineup:
Clemson features a very stable and productive starting five. Their starting five accounts for nearly 75 percent of their points. By comparison, the Hokies get about 81 percent of their points from the starting five.
Clemson’s strength is its frontcourt. No longer held down by Trevor Booker, Jerai Grant and Devin Booker (Trevor’s younger brother) provide a solid 1-2 punch down low. Grant is definitely the more athletic of the two and has had a fantastic senior season, raising his ppg average from 7.2 last year to 12.2 this year. He’s a force underneath and Victor Davila will need to attempt to control him. Booker on the other hand is more of a scrappy forward that fights for rebounds and gets his points. Tech can’t afford to get in foul trouble and let this duo take over the game.
In the backcourt, Clemson features two dynamic guards in Demontez Stitt and Andre Young. Stitt is a Malcolm Delaney type of player when he’s on from the field. He’s a great outside shooter, but can also drive into the lane and get shots and get to the free throw line. In conference play, Stitt has bumped up his scoring average to 15.3 ppg. Young is the Tigers point guard and relies on three’s to get most of his scoring. He shoots 38 percent from deep and leads Clemson in attempts and makes.
Tanner Smith is the fifth member of Clemson’s starting five, and he’s sort of a role player that can play as a guard or as a forward. He’s struggled offensively recently, scoring more than four points just once in his last four games.
Off the bench, the Tigers turn to Brian Narcisse (6-6, 220) and Milton Jennings (6-9, 225). Narcisse is a scrappy guy that head coach Brad Brownell likes to use off the bench to bring some extra energy to his team. He only averages 3.2 ppg, but is a key part to their team. Jennings was a five-star recruit out of high school, but hasn’t performed to his abilities at the collegiate level. He averages 8.2 ppg in just about 20 minutes off the bench.
Keys to VicTory:
- Role Players
- Tech had no production outside its big three in Tuesday’s loss to Boston College. It seems as though every time the Hokies get a big game from Terrell Bell and Victor Davila, the Hokies win. When they don’t show up, they lose. Delaney, Allen, and Green will get their points, but Tech needs production from somewhere else to win this game. On Clemson’s side, they get a lot of points from their starters. Tanner Smith has been absent recently and if he gets going that just adds another threat to the Tiger offense.
- Outside Shooting
- The Hokies were 3-of-17 from three in Tuesday’s loss to BC. Like above, it seems as though every time Tech has a bad shooting day from deep they lose and vice versa. Tech needs to take advantage of Clemson’s small backcourt and hit them in the mouth early with a couple three’s. Malcolm Delaney has owned the Tigers, averaging 24 ppg in four meetings. Knowing what happened on Senior Night, I wouldn’t be surprised if Delaney took it personal and went off on Clemson Saturday afternoon.
- Sense of Urgency
- On Tuesday night, the Hokies seemed lackadaisical and rather disinterested in playing. Sure, they were coming off a high from beating Duke last Saturday, but it’s now do or die time for this team. If they want to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to win this game and at least one in the ACC Tournament to feel safe come Selection Sunday. Hopefully, coach Greenberg got into the player’s heads and they’ll come out with renewed passion Saturday afternoon.
This is a BIG game for both teams. Not only does the winner get a bye in the conference tournament, but the winner also gets that elusive 20th win on the season. With a victory Tech can get to 10-6 in the conference and feel pretty good about where they stand heading into Greensboro. With a loss, fans better hope the Hokies pull of a stunner in the ACC Tournament next week.