Preview | VT (16-10, 6-6) @ #13 clemson (22-4, 8-4) | Wed., 7:30 PM | ESPN2

THE SETUP

Spread: clemson by 10 1/2 (ouch – obviously Vegas doesn’t realize how close these games usually are… and doesn’t care)

Rerun of an article from before the first meeting: The Opposing View 

If the Hokies are again left out of the NCAA Tournament this year, they are going to look back at one point in time as to why they are headed to the Junior Prom: the 16:30 mark of the second half against clemson on January 29th.  At that time, VT led 63-48 over the highly ranked #12 tigers.  Tech stood at 4-1 in conference and were about to enter the “easy” part of their schedule.   A win would have put the Hokies at 5-1 with five winnable games against teams in the bottom half of the ACC upcoming.

After that point, clemson went on an 18-0 over the next seven minutes.  Tech would regain the lead in the final three minutes, but were unable to get key stops down the stretch and lost 86-82.

 You could easily argue that the Hokies have been in a tailspin ever since, losing five of their last seven games (including that game) and were lucky as heck to have won the nc state game after trailing by 18 in the second half.  Tech has had their opportunities, but just have not been able to finish games at the end.  And they were blown out in their last two road games against teams no where near as good as clemson.

The Hokies no longer have any margin for error.  If they want to get to the NCAA Tournament, they have to win either this game or the game at florida state, and steal either the unc or duke game at home.  Plus, they will have to win at least their First Round match-up in the ACC Tournament and maybe even win in the Quarterfinals.  It is time to put up or shut up.  No Greenberg plea to the NCAA Committee will mean anything if the Hokies don’t start winning games.

Of Note: A.D. Vassallo will move into 10th place on the VT all time scoring list with six points in this game.

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 before the first meeting that whomever led with 30 seconds to go was going to lose.   Unfortunately, he was wrong.

For more on the series since VT joined the ACC, check out Wick’s article from three weeks ago (before the last game): Hokies and tigers: An instant classic

  • All-Time: 10-10 (georgia tech is the only ACC team VT has a winning record against all time)
  • At clemson: 4-5
  • In the ACC: 2-5
  • Streak: clemson – 4 in a row

Last Meeting: In the first half, the Hokies absolutely torched clemson’s full court trapping press.  Tech committed three early turnovers against it, but then started finding easy bucket after easy dunk after easy wide-open three.   The result was a 53-44 halftime lead, Tech’s largest first half output of the season.  Malcolm Delaney had 22 points in the first half alone, including a 3/4 court shot at the buzzer.

The second half saw the Hokies build their lead back up to 15 as I mentioned above but then the wheels came off.  The tigers stopped pressing, something they never do, and forced the Hokies to beat them in the half court set.  clemson went on an 18-0 and went on to win the game.

The key for clemson was their three point shooting.  The tigers hit 14/25 from long range (an astounding 56%), including 7/10 from K.C. Rivers, the Hokie-killer.  He is the guy that hit the shot in Blacksburg to give clemson a win over the Hokies in the final regular season game of 2007 that cost the Hokies a share of the ACC regular season title and the #1 seed in the tourney.  In other words, he loves Blacksburg.  He had 29 points in the game.

Inside, Trevor Booker dominated as expected.  He had 21 points and 13 rebounds.  Tech really struggles with big, athletic low post players, and Booker is as good as you will see in the ACC.

Delaney added 15 more points in the second half, giving him 37 for the game which is still the season high in the ACC and the most points ever scored by a Hokie in an ACC game.  He was 11/17 from the floor and 6/10 on threes.  But, it was all for not in a losing cause.

Click ‘Read more’ to see the rest of the preview…

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.5

So

Shooting Guard

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.3

Sr

Small Forward

33 – Thompson

6′6″

4.9

So

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.4

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

4.0

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.6

So

 

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.8

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.7

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.4

Jr

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.3

Jr

 clemson

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

2 – Stitt

6′2″

8.5

So

Shooting Guard

22 – Oglesby

6′2″

13.3

So

Small Forward

1 – Rivers

6′5″

14.5

Sr

Power Forward

12 - Sykes

6′9″

8.1

Sr

Center

35 – Booker

6′7″

15.2

Jr

Bench

5 – Smith

6′5″

3.7

Fr

 

11 - Young

5’9″

4.2

Fr

 

15 – Potter

6’6″

5.2

Jr

 

21 – Narcisse

6′6″

1.7

Fr

 

45 – Grant

6′8″

4.7

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).

clemson used to be notorious for their late season nose-dives.  But between last year and this year, they look like a new bunch.  They finished third in the ACC last season after beating VT in the season finale, then made it to the ACC Finals before laying an egg against villanova in the NCAA Tournament. 

This year they have won three of their last four and six of eight since starting 2-2 in conference play, including a rare win over duke. 

Booker has been on a tear of late, scoring exactly 21 points in four of the last seven games and reaching double digits in all those games.  He has also had four games with 12 rebounds or more in that span.

K.C. Rivers has also been hot of late, hitting the 10+ point mark in every game since the VT game.  Seems like the Hokie defense is the sure fire cure for slumps of late.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Will the tigers press?  The tigers love to full court press.  It is their bread-and-butter.  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.  lemson will also show full court man at times.  This is their less aggressive press.

In the first meeting, Tech burned the press in the manner suggested above.  They were getting inbounds passes to Delaney who was then able to throw the ball up the court to get odd man rushes against the defense, leading to easy hoops.  VT did have some early trouble with the press though, especially when catching the inbounds pass with their back to the Hokie basket in the corners.  Will have to see if clemson makes this a half court game like they did in the second half.  My guess is the press, press, and press some more.  That is just who they are.

Will the Hokies Big 3 get exhausted?  Tech has two players, Vassallo and Delaney, averaging over 35 minutes per game.  Allen averages 30 mpg.  If clemson presses, they could get worn down in the second half as Odum pointed out in the Opposing View. 

Another key is defensive rebounding.  If clemson doesn’t get scores, they cannot press.  Tech must keep Booker and Sykes off the offensive glass.  They didn’t in the first game and clemson gathered 20 offensive rebounds in 43 opportunities (47%). That means clemson got second chances on almost half their misses.  No way VT can win if that number is above 35% in this game.

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 second in the ACC for most threes made in the ACC at 75 (2.9 per game).  He is 40% from downtown.

Oglesby torched the Hokies last season, going 5/7 on threes, including one from Columbia, SC, but was just 1/3 at Tech this season.  Tech must limit his looks.  A big defender can really negate him. 

Inside, the tigers have a beast in 6’7″, 240 lb. Trevor Booker.  I mention above about the defensive rebounding.  Tech must limit his second chances, and Cheick/Allen must force him to catch the ball more than 6-8 feet from the hoop or he will have another big night.

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. 

In the last game, A.D. Vassallo drew the assignment on Rivers a lot.  We all saw the result.  I would put Vassallo on Oglesby (since you don’t have to respect the drive) and Hudson, Bell, or Thompson on Rivers.  The risk with this is if Vassallo doesn’t fight through screens, which he often doesn’t, or flash out to get Oglesby on the perimeter, VT could get burned.  It is almost like choose your poison — Rivers or Oglesby.

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 usually 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.  He was just 2/12 from the field in the first meeting, but did hit two bit threes.  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 1198 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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