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StLouHoo's Preview:

Time to Rain on a Parade

Clemson Tigers

The Hoos travel to Clemson where, for the 2nd time in 3 years, they'll play the Tigers on a Saturday afternoon immediately following a football championship parade. Two years ago Virginia left with a hard-fought 4 point win. Can we spoil their big day again this year?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, January 12th, 12:00 am ET
Location:Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
TV:Raycom

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -6.5, O/U 125.5, equates to ~66-60 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks Clemson #40, predicts a 63-57 UVA win, 73% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Clemson #38, predicts a 65-59 UVA win 72% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#2 Marcquise Reed, 6'3" 188, SR
33.6 mpg, 19.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, .327 3P%
SG#4 Shelton Mitchell, 6'4" 200, SR
32.3 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 3.0 apg, .275 3P%
SF#24 David Skara, 6'8" 213, SR
29.5 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .529 FG%
PF#25 Aamir Simms, 6'7" 248, SO
28.1 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .487 FG%
C#14 Elijah Thomas, 6'9" 245, SR
24.3 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, .673 FG%
Key Reserves
G#15 John Newman III, 6'5" 197, FR
13.4 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 0.4 apg, .308 3P%
F#5 Hunter Tyson, 6'8" 204, FR
9.9 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, .237 FG%
C#35 Javan White, 6'10" 227, SR
9.5 mpg, 1.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, .563 FG%

 

The ABC's of Clemson:

A) Elijah Thomas is the best big man in the ACC that no one's talking about. I feel like I said this last year too. The RS junior made last year's all-ACC defensive team, but he's no one-dimensional big man. He's strong and agile, able to go to work with his back to the basket, and scores very well off of put-backs, collecting 2.5 O-Reb a game. As a team Clemson isn't a strong second-chance club, but Thomas by himself is dangerous. Even against a steady defender like Salt, expect Thomas to put up double-digit points. In ACC play he's a combined 11/15 from the floor, and if Clemson is smart, they'll find ways to get him more looks in this contest.

B) They're loose with the ball. Clemson is struggling with turnovers this season. Nationally they're 284th in turnover rate (21.1%). They coughed up 18 against Duke and 17 against Syracuse. Reed is averaging 4 TOs per game in ACC play, as is Elijah Thomas. Mitchell is also averaging 2.4 TOs per game over the season. Against Virginia's stingy defense, they're going to need to play far more secure with the ball if they have any hope of pulling off the upset.

C) Their defense is their identity. Brownell's teams rally around their defense as a point of pride. Last year they finished as a KenPom Top 10 defense nationally, and rank in the Top 25 this year. They're pretty balanced in how they do it, a tight man-to-man with a good shot-blocking anchor that ranks in the top 25% of the country in a number of statistics, including forcing turnovers, limiting 2P%, limiting opponent FT trips, shot blocking. Two areas where they excel are in discouraging ball movement, opponents scoring off assists on a 27th-best nationally 44% of their makes, and defensive rebounding, where they secure a 13th-best nationally 76.8% of their opponents misses. The only area where they struggle is defending the 3-point line, where teams shoot a healthy 36.4% from range. Virginia will have to work to get good looks in this one, and can't count on a lot of second chance points, though using turnovers to get a few opportunistic transition buckets (see B above) would be advantageous.

 

Their Season To Date

Clemson is 10-5 on the season, 0-2 in ACC play. Their best wins are over Georgia (64-49, neutral) and South Carolina (78-68, away). Their three OOC losses were Creighton (by 5), Nebraska (by 2), and Mississippi State (by 9). Their two ACC losses were at Duke 87-68 and most recently at Syracuse 61-53.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Find our 3-point stroke. As strong as Clemson's defense has been at times, teams are finding a way to hit consistently from deep, and it's costing them wins. Creighton hit 10 of 26 (39%) in their win. St Peter's hit 10 of 21 (48%) in a near upset. Miss State torched them on 19 of 30 (63%) shooting from range. The Tigers have tightened this up in recent games, but against weaker-shooting teams coming into it (Duke is 247th nationally in 3P%, Cuse is 301st). Virginia, by contrast, is the nation's 15th best shooting team from range, and should be primed to dial in from deep against Clemson's 280th ranked 3P% Defense (allowing teams on the whole to shoot 36.4% this year). But to do so, we'll need to...

2) Move the ball safely through the paint. Clemson's defense is predicated on making the paint inhospitable. Teams shoot well under 50% in the paint, Thomas is a fearsome shot blocker, and the team defense picks pockets at a respectable clip. Clemson's opponents have a low ratio of assists-to-field goal makes of 43.8%, which is the 28th lowest in the country and tells me they're doing a great job of disrupting passing lanes and the general flow of opponents offenses. Duke and Syracuse have the kinds of athletic slashing wings that can attack crowded paints outside of a system, but Virginia's offense isn't built that way. We work best when ball movement generates paint touches which then turn into an extra pass to the open shooter. Our shooters work well coming off kick-outs. Virginia will need to aggressively attack the paint even when it looks difficult, using the help it draws to create space elsewhere on the floor for the scorers to finish.

3) Shut down the supporting cast. Reed and Thomas are all-ACC level players, and they're playing like it. The rest of the team is very hot/cold, however. Clemson doesn't rely much on their bench, and even the rest of the starters are apt to struggle against better defenses. Against Syracuse, Thomas and Reed went for 13 and 16 respectively, while the rest of the team combined for a paltry 22 points. Shelton Mitchell's quieter nights have tended to correlate to their losses. So similar to the BC game, where we saw Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic succeed but the rest of the roster struggle, we should expect to see UVA try to make Clemson a 2-man offense. Forwards Simms and Skara are should struggle with the length and athleticism of Hunter, Key, and Diakite, and Guy/Jerome should be able to check Mitchell. Without a big contribution from its supporting cast, it's hard to expect Clemson to keep up in this one.

 

 

Predictions:

Poor Clemson, having to start ACC play with three straight games against the ACC's 3 best defenses. Going from Syracuse's zone to Virginia's pack line 3 days apart will be hard on Clemson's offense.

As such, I am expecting our defense to have a good day. If Clemson breaks 60 points, then they got hot or Virginia did something wrong. It'll come down to our offense, then, to get into a rhythm against Clemson's disruptive defense. I'm slowly coming around to how good this offense is this year, especially with the improvement from Key and Diakite to balance out our proven guards, so I'm inclined to see UVA finding a way to get good looks against the Brownell defense all the same.

Expect the Hoos to put a damper on Clemson's festive Saturday before turning their attention to a monster week ahead.

Hoos Win 70-57