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The (Re)Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson

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Clemson visits Virginia Tech in the second game of the season series between the two teams.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech looks to continue their solid play as they host Clemson in Cassell on Tuesday. The Tigers fell in the first meeting against the Hokies earlier this season in a tightly-contested 82-81 battle. At that point, Clemson was 1-6 in the ACC. They have not fared much better since, as they currently sit 12th in the standings with just four conference wins.

The Hokies, meanwhile, have started to get back into form after a tough midseason stretch. Starting with a monumental win over Virginia last Sunday, the Hokies won in Pittsburgh and competed with a very good Louisville team. Despite losing Chris Clarke for the year, Virginia Tech has rallied together and looks to end the year on a positive note with three of their final four remaining games are in Blacksburg.

You can find my full preview and scouting report from the first matchup here.

What went right in the first meeting?

The Hokies were able to get their offense rolling the last time they faced Clemson, shooting 54.7% from the field and 38.1% from behind the arc. Virginia Tech’s guards were able to penetrate the paint and shot a high percentage as a result (over 65% from inside the arc). For a team that thrives when they get into the paint and the free throw line, look for that to be an emphasis early.

Seth Allen’s perimeter shooting received all the headlines against Louisville, and rightfully so. In fact, he now leads the conference in three-point shooting percentage. Because of his ability to torch teams from deep, it has opened up lanes for him to drive the basketball. He was able to do both against Clemson in the last meeting, scoring 17 points on 6-10 shooting. Sometimes offense is as simple as finding the hot hand within the offense. Look for Seth to play well once again, a common theme for him this season.

The last matchup against Clemson was also one of the few times during conference play that the Hokies were able to win the rebounding battle. Without Chris Clarke, Virginia Tech will need other players to step up and get boards so they do not lose the game off of second chance points like they did against Louisville.

What went wrong?

Clemson decided to shoot the lights out of the ball that Sunday night, hitting on 13-of-27 of their deep attempts. A lot of that was due to the Hokies’ failure to close out on shooters. Virginia Tech has been lit up from the three-point line in general this season, allowing conference opponents to shoot 40.8% from deep. It was an evident problem against Louisville, who shot over 50% from three as well. The Hokies need to shore up their perimeter defense, not just for the Tigers, but for the rest of the season.

One of the other problems the Hokies have had defensively this season is their inability to create turnovers. Clemson turned the ball over just 9 times in the last meeting, and Virginia Tech ranks 14th in turnovers forced. With the Hokies size disadvantage, they will give up offensive rebounds. Turnovers help equalize that effect. The Hokies were very good at forcing turnovers at the tail end of last season, and like in 2015-16, Virginia Tech appears to be getting hot at the right time. It will be interesting to see if the Hokies use their active hands and pressure a bit more during this last stretch.

Prediction:

Clemson’s tournament hopes are a low probability dream at this point, while the Hokies seek to reach double digit conference wins for the second straight season. The two sides are clearly headed in very different directions, and the Hokies are at home where they have lost just one game over the last calendar year. I don’t know if Virginia Tech’s insane three-point shooting carries over from the weekend, but I do think that the Hokies ability to attack the basket will be the reason why they win this game.

Hokies 80-74.