*Apologies for the late and short preview. School and work got kept me away from writing longer than I wanted.
Virginia Tech comes back home after essentially giving away a win at Syracuse. The Hokies have been on the losing end of their last five games, falling by an average margin of 8.4 points. Clemson has been one of the better teams in the ACC, and a team that not many predicted to be near the top of the conference in early February. The Tigers have gone 7-3 in the conference and won't be an easy test for the Hokies.
The Hokies' offense wasn't spectacular on Tuesday, but the defense couldn't hold up. The Hokies' defense played very well against Syracuse for the first 38 minutes. However, poor late game execution and some timely shots from the Syracuse backcourt made it all go to waste. The Hokies were outscored by 7 in the final two minutes of the second half and were outscored 12-4 in the extra period.
Similar to Clemson's football team, the Tigers' basketball team plays great defense. They only allow 63.2 PPG defensively which ranks 17th in the nation. But like Syracuse, some of their great defensive numbers are due to their slow pace of play. Clemson actually ranks below Syracuse in possessions per 40 minutes, so expect another relatively low scoring matchup on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers' pace of play hurts their offensive numbers as a result of their tendency to slow the games down, but they rank 99th in Offensive Rating which is above average.
When Clemson has the ball, they'll look for Jaron Blossomgame. During this losing streak, the Hokies have struggled to defend lengthy, athletic, frontcourt players, and unfortunately for them that's who Blossomgame is. He's averaging 17.2 PPG and is a versatile threat, shooting over 41% behind the arc. Blossomgame will certainly test Zach LeDay's athleticism, but LeDay should be up to the task, especially in a sold-out home game. Another thing Blossomgame has done well is rebound the ball, especially for an undersized forward (listed at 6-7). The Hokies have seemingly allowed double-doubles to at least one player on the opposing side, and they've been eaten alive on the offensive glass. It's been a crucial factor in each of the Hokies' losses, and it will no doubt be crucial today.
Jordan Roper is another guy to watch out for. He's the primary ball handler of the team and the Tigers' best passer, averaging 4 APG. He also shows the ability to get to the rim as he's averaging 10 PPG, but like Blossomgame, Roper can hurt the Hokies behind the arc. Virginia Tech's perimeter defense has been lacking and allowing teams inexcusably wide-open looks. Every team in the ACC can hurt you from deep, and the Hokies have learned a tough lesson through experience. That experience needs to show in game situations however, in order for it to make a difference in the win column.
Apologies for the belated and short preview again. This will be another low scoring affair, but being at home should help the Hokies retain a late lead, if they can get one. A good start is imperative. The Hokies did that against Louisville which helped keep the game close, and they'll need to do it against Clemson.
I'm an optimist, so I think the Hokies finally rally and get the job done at home. 67-64, Hokies.