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Rested and Ready for the Tigers

Clemson Tigers

Virginia goes into Wednesday's contest fresh off a mini-bye and a confidence building win over ranked FSU. Clemson has been up and down this year, having both great wins and bad losses. Which Tigers team will show up at JPJ, and what do the Hoos need to do to stretch their win streak further?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Wednesday, February 5th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -8, O/U 106, equates to ~57-49 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks CU #90, predicts a 53-48 UVA win, 76% confidence
KenPom:Ranks CU #94, predicts a 54-48 UVA win, 71% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#0 Clyde Trapp, 6'4" 194, JR
25.5 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.6 apg, 31.4 3P%
SG#15 John Newman III, 6'5" 197, SO
31.6 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 2.3 apg, 31.3 3P%
SF#10 Curran Scott, 6'4" 205, SR
23.5 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 38.6 FG%
PF#13 Tevin Mack, 6'6" 227, SR
28.2 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 45.5 FG%
C#25 Aamir Simms, 6'8" 240, JR
31.5 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 45.1 FG%
Key Reserves
G#2 Al-Amir Dawes, 6'2" 180, FR
28.6 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 28.9 3P%
G#12 Alex Hemenway, 6'3" 180, FR
11.2 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 0.2 apg, 53.8 3P%
F#5 Hunter Tyson, 6'8" 211, SO
14.8 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 43.3 FG%
C#55 Trey Jemison, 7'0" 256, SO
7.4 mpg, 1.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 53.3 FG%

 

The ABC's of Clemson:

A) This is a really small team. The Tigers are right there with Virginia Tech in playing a guard-dominant lineup that rarely features a true big man. Starting 5 Aamir Simms is really a face-up power forward type, though he's added a lot of mass to at least be able to hold ground in the paint. Mack is a big wing, Justin Anderson-esque in his skill set, masquerading as a 4. They give very limited minutes to traditional center Jemison, and combo-forward Tyson really isn't at home in the paint. The rest are all traditional 6'4"-and-under guards who will deploy across the 1-3 spots. The small ball lineup manifests itself in a lot of the usual statistical ways, with poor offensive rebounding, little shot blocking, a preference to shoot over playing in the paint, and poor 2-point-defense (allowing 52% in league play). They do commit to defensive rebounding though, using team discipline to overcome the usual height disparity in the post.

B) They bomb away from 3. Not surprising for a guard-dominant team, Clemson takes nearly 46% of their shots from behind the arc, the second highest rate in the ACC. What's curious is they're doing it with limited success, hitting only 30.6% on 3's in ACC play (I know, glass houses). Honestly, a lot of this can be traced to grad transfer Tevin Mack who leads the team in 3PA's (averages over five 3PA's a game in league play) while hitting on only 20% in ACC games, though his career numbers are somewhat better in the low-30s neighborhood. Simms has been the lone marksman in ACC play, hitting 41% on decent volume, so Diakite and Huff will need to stay with him. The guards have all been around 33%, though, only limited reserve Hemenway showing promise lately. They did manage to ride good 3-point shooting nights to wins at UNC (12/31) and vs Duke (8/19), though it can also cost them when they go cold, such as going 4/21 against Wake Forest.

C) They play without a true point guard. Trapp, Newman, and Dawes are all combo guards who play interchangeably between the point and the wing. It does add some versatility to their offense, but it means they struggle sometimes when they need a true floor general / playmaker type. None of them average even just 3 apg. Their assist rate and turnover rates are all pretty mid-tier in the ACC, so it's not specifically hurting them, though it's not a point of strength either. What it means is all of our guards and wings have to be ready to defend any manner of backcourt attack from the Tigers.

 

Their Season To Date

Clemson is 11-10 on the season, 5-6 in league play. Their nonconference slate saw them go 1-4 vs KenPom Top100 teams (W: TCU; L: Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Yale). In ACC play they hang their hat on a 7-point win home win over Duke (minus Wendell Moore) and have good home wins over NC State and Syracuse. But they've dropped winnable games to VT, Miami, and most recently at Wake Forest 56-44.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Keep them out of the lane. I mentioned Clemson likes to take a lot of 3's. That volume comes at the expense of efficiency. In their win over Duke, Clemson displayed excellent discipline, bypassing on a lot of questionable 3-point looks in exchange for lots of better looks in the paint. Of their 53 shot attempts in that game, only 19 came from 3, instead letting Simms and Mack win the game with a combined 16-of-22 performance on 2-point attempts. Clemson probably knows a live/die-by-the-3 approach is too risky at UVA, and instead will try and spread us out to play downhill. The Hoo defenders must stay in front of their assignments, cutting off penetration and forcing contested jumpers, where the Tigers are far less efficient.

2) Spread out and play downhill. Whether we play with a big or a small lineup, UVA needs to scheme to get the ball to the rim. The Hoos have done a better job lately of not settling for excessive 3's, the Wake game aside, and must continue that tonight. Clemson's defense does an excellent job of paint denial, forcing teams into 3-point-attempts at a 44% rate which is the second-highest in the conference. Opponents are hitting those 3's at only a 32% clip, so it makes for efficient defense. When teams can penetrate, however, Clemson's 2P%-defense is the league's 3rd-worst. Whether it's playing through the bigs in the paint, or popping the bigs to open up the lane (the tactics for which are largely zone-vs-man dependent), UVA must refuse to settle for 3's and instead be smart about getting the ball to the rim where the Tigers' defense is most vulnerable.

3) Finish strong. Clemson has trailed at the halftime break six of their last seven games, but managed to come back to win half of them. In fact, of their 9 ACC games since New Years, the Tigers have only "lost" the 2nd half in one of them (two others were tied). So while I'm not trying to understate the importance of getting out to a lead as early as we can, UVA can't take their foot off the break or risk another 2nd-half dry spell. Clemson is a team that has grown accustomed to winning games down the stretch, while by contrast the closing minutes haven't been kind to UVA much of this year. UVA must find a way to play a complete 40 minutes, not freezing up if Clemson tries to make one of their patented late runs, and instead being the team that closes strong.

 

 

Predictions:

Clemson is 3-3 in their last six games. They're 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. The first two road losses, by single digits at NCSU and then by 18 at Louisville, are forgivable for a mid-tier ACC team. Losing by 12 at Wake Forest is a red flag, however. And yet, this is also the team that gave Duke one of its only 3 losses this year.

This is a game Virginia, on paper, should win. It's the kind of game I want to see us win, and win comfortably, to start building confidence that we're getting over our worst "play to the level of our opponents" tendencies. If we can lose to a shorthanded BC and almost get upset by a shorthanded Wake, Clemson at full strength is definitely a team we can't take lightly.

No clue at press time if we'll see Kody Stattmann. I do like him in this matchup as depth for a smaller lineup, allowing us to play Key at the 4 against Mack and Diakite/Huff at the 5 against Simms. Tony may still elect to start Key at the 4 and go with Clark/Morsell/Woldetensae to start at the 1-2-3, but without Kody we likely have to go big when we go to the bench, since Coleman is likely only to give us spot minutes (though I do expect to see Chase in this one). Maybe Justin McKoy gives us good 3/4 minutes.

UVA has to know this is a must-win. Clemson's bad enough that this probably ends up a Q3 game on the Tourney resume, and UVA simply cannot afford another Q3 loss and expect to go dancing. Let's assume we get good fire from the Hoos here out of the gate and they play a solid enough 40 minutes to get the win, even if it's not as pretty as we might like.

Hoos Win 57-49