Hokie Hoops Preview: Clemson
Virginia Tech will be back in Cassell Coliseum Tuesday evening in what will be their first contest since the 20-point thrashing by Penn State that saw the Hokies fall out of the top 25.
The loss versus Penn State was a heat check for Hokie Nation, who had set some lofty expectations after an impressive start of the season. Remember, this team has not spent a lot of time together and is far from a finished product. Losses happen (especially when a team shoots over 50% from three) and Tuesday’s matchup against the Clemson Tigers is an excellent opportunity to prove their performance against Villanova was no fluke.
The #24 Clemson Tigers have the best record in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 5-0 and will be looking to make it six against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech and Clemson have squared off 37 times since their first matchup in 1925 with the Hokies leading the series 21-16. VT has had their number as of late, winning six of their last seven bouts. Tyrece Radford had one of his most efficient games in their latest matchup, going for 16 points on just eight shots. It was the Hokies’ lone win in the final seven games last season.
Football is not the only sport where Clemson has ACC Championship aspirations. Unlike Clemson teams of the past: they are a different beast this season.
Head Coach Brad Brownell has his defense looking like one of, if not the best unit in the country. They have held teams to just 51.4 points per game, making them the number two team in overall defensive efficiency.
This is bad news for Hokie fans, as Virginia Tech has struggled to take care of the ball as of late, turning it over 12 times per contest. The Tigers will look to exploit the Hokies’ recent offensive woes as they force turnovers on 27.8% of defensive possessions, good for 12th in the nation. It will be crucial for the Hokies to not repeat what happened last week where the Nittany Lions scored 22 points off of 14 Hokie giveaways. Clemson is a much better defensive team than Penn State so that will be something to monitor.
While Clemson wins games because of their defense, their offense is nothing to scoff at. Like Villanova, the Tigers like to slow the game down to a tempo of their liking. Though the Tigers are a strong shooting team, there will not be a three-point outpouring as seen against Penn State. Brownell runs a well-crafted, old-school motion offense that focuses more on passing and getting into the paint rather than set plays. There will seldom be a Clemson player standing still on offense; they are continuously moving and setting screens both on and off the ball.
The offense Clemson runs is typically called a “4-out 1-in” motion offense, meaning they will have four guys on the perimeter with one guy inside. This style requires a team to have an inside threat, that being Aamir Simms for the Clemson Tigers. He is the anchor and the Must Stop Player for this game.
Must Stop Player
The Virginia native has dazzled through five games.
He is Clemson’s best-returning player and the heart of this regime. While the senior forward is a bit undersized, he is a mismatch nightmare as he is too quick for typical big men but too big if you put a guard on him.
For Clemson's offense to work, every guy needs to be able to play everywhere on the floor. Simms is the perfect big man for this style of play as his athletic ability allows him to be effective both in the post and on the perimeter. He is crafty in the post and shot 40% from three-point land last season, demonstrating his ability to score at every level. Simms utilizes his agility to beat guys in a non-traditional way.
Virginia Tech forward Keve Aluma has done an excellent job defending thus far, and this will be yet another test for the redshirt junior.
On defense, communication is key against a team like Clemson. They have no problem working the ball around, eating up the shot clock and waiting for the defense to slip up. There were a couple of miscommunications from Virginia Tech last week that led to easy buckets for Penn State, therefore Tech will have to minimize those mental mistakes if they want to hang in this game.
Offensively, there is little room for error against a team like Clemson. The Hokies have struggled to start games and take too long to find their offensive rhythm. Clemson held a then 4-0 Maryland team to 15 first-half points. If the Hokies want to climb back in the top 25, they cannot afford another slow start against this stout Clemson defense. Mike Young and his roster will have to be at their best if they want to upset the 24th ranked Tigers.
Tuesday, December 15th