Preview | #12 clemson (17-2, 3-2) @ VT (14-5, 4-1) | Th., 7 PM | ESPN2

THE SETUP

The Opposing View  |  Series History

Spread: VT favored by 1 (this actually stunned me – had to do a double take)

In case you haven’t heard, Brent Woody Musburger and the General, Bob Knight, are working this game. Big time!

Tech returns from a memorable two-game road trip for a battle against #12/11 clemson.  It is a BLACKOUT, people!  Wear your Blackout t-shirt, black leather, black dress, black chaps, or anything else black.  Not really sure where this came from, but what the heck.  It is all in good fun.

As with the miami game, this is another test to see where the Hokies match up against the teams they are comparable with, or at least the teams the media thought they would be on par with before the season.  The tigers were picked by the media to finish fifth in the ACC, just ahead of the Hokies.  A win here would be another big Top 50 win (clemson is currently 10th in the RPI) and help with ACC tiebreakers, although the two teams play again at the end of February in Clemson, SC.  And with miami losing to nc state on Tuesday, that win is looking a little less impressive.

Malcolm Delaney will need to keep playing at an incredibly high level to get the Hokies a win in this one.  His passing and ballhandling will really be put to the test against the press crazy tigers.

Niemo’s News & Notes 6-Pack:

  • A win Thursday would be Tech’s sixth in a row and mark the longest VT winning streak under Greenberg
  • With the win at miami, VT has now won seven straight ACC road games.  Tech is 8-1 in ACC overtime games, but 0-3 out of conference under Seth in the extra session.
  • A.D. Vassallo became the 14th Hokie to eclipse the 1,500 point mark in the miami game.
  • Malcolm Delaney was named ACC Player of the Week for this past week.  He is the third Hokie to win the honor and fourth time a Hokie has done it (Dowdell twice and Gordon once).
  • Four of the seven highest scoring games by Hokies in ACC contests have come in the last four games: Vassallo’s 29 against uva, Allen’s 30 versus bc, and Delaney’s 29/Vassallo’s 28 in the miami game.
  • Virginia Tech’s first ACC win came against clemson at home in 2005.

THE SERIES

When the Hokies and tigers play you know one thing – the game is going to come right down to the wire.  Greenberg joked this week during his press conference that whoever leads with 30 seconds to go is going to lose. 

For more on the series since VT joined the ACC, check out Wick’s article: Hokies and tigers: An instant classic

  • All-Time: VT 10-9 (note that clemson is one of just two ACC teams that Virginia Tech leads in the all-time series; georgia tech, surprisingly, is the other)
  • At the Cassell: 6-3
  • In the ACC: 2-4
  • Streak: clemson 3 in a row
  • Last Meeting: @cu 70, VT 69 – 3/9/08

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

17.6

So

Shooting Guard

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.4

Sr

Small Forward

33 – Thompson

6′6″

4.8

So

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.1

So

Center

14 – Davila

6′8″

4.3

Fr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.6

So

 

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.5

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

3.1

So

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.6

Jr

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.7

Sr

 clemson

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

2 – Stitt

6′2″

8.2

So

Shooting Guard

22 – Oglesby

6′2″

13.7

So

Small Forward

1 – Rivers

6′5″

13.8

Sr

Power Forward

12 – Sykes

6′9″

8.3

Sr

Center

35 – Booker

6′7″

14.4

Jr

Bench

5 – Smith

6′5″

3.7

Fr

 

11 – Young

5’9″

4.0

Fr

 

15 – Potter

6’6″

5.2

Jr

 

21 – Narcisse

6′6″

1.8

Fr

 

45 – Grant

6′8″

5.2

So

THE OPPONENT

  • ACC Tournament Titles: 0 (yep, the big goose egg and they were a founding member)
  • Record at unc: 0-54 (just love throwing that in there)
  • Worst commercial ever: About four or five years ago their commercial featured a dancing cartoon paw with buzz words flashing on the screen.  That’s it.  30 seconds worth.  No people, no shots of the campus, nothing.  A dancing paw.  A 5th-grader could have made it (in other words, probably the average clemson student – hope my cousin isn’t reading this).

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: the clemson tigers start out hotter than Casey Beamer, but fall apart more than a Jack Bauer interrogation subject as the ACC season goes on.  Well, this year is looking like it could go that way again.  The tigers started out 16-0, including quality wins at illinois, miami, and south carolina, and a home win over alabama.  But since then they have been beaten by wake (somewhat soundly) on their home floor and gotten blown out at unc (their 54th straight loss at unc in 54 tries).  The tigers looked sluggish on Sunday against the ACC’s lone winless team, georgia tech, before blowing out the jackets in the second half by a 73-59 margin.

Excuse me if I don’t betting on the tigers to make the Final Four.  As I mentioned, something-and-0 is not new territory for clemson.  Finishing strong would be, although they started to turn a corner last year.  Let’s look at recent history:

  • 2007-08: Started 10-0, finished 24-10; including 10-6 in the ACC and making the ACC Finals (their best year)
  • 2006-07: Started 17-0, went 4-10 in ACC play after that point
  • 2005-06: Started 11-0, finished 19-13
  • 2004-05: Started 7-1, finished 16-15

In other words, clemson is the anti-Virginia Tech.  They come out like a lion, and fade like a lamb.

KEYS TO THE GAME

As most of you know, two things happen once clemson gets off the bus:

  • They start pressing you
  • Oglesby is in range

The tigers love to full court press.  They will do it all game long after made baskets or out of bounds situations.  Normally they like to run a diamond-and-one trapping press (with the “one” in the back).  cu will have a big up front like Booker, Sykes, or Grant, and another big in the back as the safety.  The two guards will look to trap the inbounds pass along with the big man up front.  Rivers will be the back part of the diamond.  You cannot dribble your way out of this.  You must make quick passes.  At times, clemson will have four guys in the back court helping press.  If you can get the ball over them you could have numbers and attack the basket, though VT has not been good at doing this.  Another key is to inbound the ball quickly before they can set, and the deeper the better.

clemson will also show full court man at times.  This is their less aggressive press.

The over/under on Tech turnovers as a result of the press is 3.5.  More than that, and the Hokies are in trouble.  Less, and that means they did a great job.  clemson will never out-talent you.  Instead, they recruit great, long athletes that fit their system.   They want to create extra possessions to make up for their lack of talent.

Tech has to look to beat the press and make the tigers pay at times, but they cannot turn this game into a track meet.  clemson wants to suck you into an up-tempo game.  The Hokies must pick and choose their opportunities to go after the press, but slow the game down for the most part. 

Will the Hokies Big 3 get exhausted?  Tech has two players, Vassallo and Delaney, averaging over 35 minutes per game.  Allen averages 30 mpg.  With clemson’s press, they could get worn down in the second half as Odum pointed out in the Opposing View.  All three looked strong going 40+ minutes in the miami game, but this is a whole different tempo and strain on the guys.  Another reason why picking and choosing when VT attacks the press is key.

Another key is defensive rebounding.  If clemson doesn’t get scores, they cannot press.  Tech must keep Booker and Sykes off the offensive glass.

Oglesby can shoot from anywhere on the court.  And when he is on, he will keep shooting until he misses.  Very similar to Jack McClinton of clemson in that respect.  Although you do not have to respect Oglesby’s ability to drive.  Almost two-thirds of his shots have been three-pointers this year, and he doesn’t get many assists.  Tech must find him at all times on defense and be right up in his grill.  He is especially dangerous after turnovers when no one has located him yet. 

Oglesby is now tied with McClinton for most threes made in the ACC at 54 after drilling 5/13 against the yellow jackets.  He is 40% from downtown.

Oglesby torched the Hokies last season, going 5/7 on threes, including one from Columbia, SC.  Tech must limit his looks.  A big defender can really negate him, so expect Thompson and Hudson to draw the assignment.  I’d say Vassallo but he is lazy at times working through screens and is slow to flash out.  A.D. left miami’s Asbury wide open for the game-tying three on Sunday.

Inside, the tigers have a beast in 6’7″, 240 lb. Trevor Booker.  I would say he’s even better than Dwayne Collins of miami, who destroyed the Hokies on Sunday, scoring 23 points including 13 in a row at one stretch in the second half.  As I say every week, the Hokies’ low post players must do a better job of forcing a big man, Booker in this case, to catch the ball farther out from the hoop.  Too often low post players catch a pass on the low block, and against ACC talent, that’s an automatic deuce.  Diakite, Allen, and Davila had no answer for Collins, and double teams didn’t work well either as Collins would spin to the baseline and beat it.  Hopefully Seth has come up with an answer this week.

Booker’s production has dropped off in ACC play, though.  He is averaging just 11 ppg in ACC play, after averaging almost 16 ppg out of the league.  And if you throw out the 23 he had in an overtime game against nc state, his numbers are even worse.  Let’s wish for his slump to continue.

K.C. Rivers is another guy that it seems like should have his doctorate by now he’s been around so long.  And he has been a VT killer before, including hitting the game-winner at VT in the home finale of 2007 that kept VT from tying for the regular season conference title and getting the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament. 

Like Booker, Rivers has struggled in ACC play, scoring just 9 ppg in his last four ACC contests.  He can shoot from deep (36%) but also can drive and score.  He has a solid midrange game.

Sykes and Grant are similar to a James Mays (former tiger) in how they play.  They are athletic, but not particularly talented.  And they are scrawny for low post players.  They need to get their points off offensive rebounds or in transition.  They are not good with their back to the basket. 

Stitt, their point guard, is not a threat from long range.  He likes to push the ball and attack the rim.  The Hokies must get back on D to slow him, and can back off him in the half court set.  Andre Young, their 5’9″ freshman (same height as Hank Thorns), backs him up.  Young, like Thorns, is looking to drive and dish.  If he’s going to shoot, it is usually a layup or a three-pointer.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1221 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • goodraisin

    I feel like whoever Vassallo is guarding is going to have a good game. I know that’s pretty much a “duh” statement, but because of that, I might want Vassallo to guard Oglesby while Thompson guards Rivers. Oglesby isn’t going to beat Vassallo off the dribble so he only has to focus on fighting through the screens. Rivers is almost as good of a 3-point shooter as Oglesby, but he is also effective both with the mid-range jumper and the drive to the hoop… he’s a more complete offensive player which makes me think we should use our most complete defender on him. Maybe that is faulty logic, but I thought I’d post it anyway. I don’t really feel like working today.

  • Niemo

    Asbury sure as heck had a career game. I see your point on Rivers being a dual threat. Yet Vassallo is so slow (or lazy) at times fighting through screens, I really worry about Oglesby. He is the bigger threat to me, especially since Rivers will disappear at times. But it is a win-lose situation, one or the other will be available to have a big game. Choose your poison.

  • startako

    loved the oglesby jokes, great stuff.
    I think we will stomp the tigers, pullling away late to win by 12 or more. I can see us slowing the game down, them missing some jays and not being able to press, then we pull away slowly but surely :)

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