Winning on the road in Conference play isn’t an easy thing, but Virginia didn’t lose a road Game in the ACC last season, an incredible feat. Doing that again seems impossible, especially with Duke on the Schedule next weekend, but the Hoos will keep trying and that’s all they need to do.
This will be a good matchup, but outside of being at home, Clemson doesn’t have many advantages. For starters, the Tigers are one of the worst in the country allowing 36.4% from deep, while also being almost equally as bad themselves (31.6%). That’s not a great stat to upend a Virginia team that shoots well and allows just 25.1% itself. The other issue is that Clemson turns the ball over on more than 20 percent of its possessions and in a slow Game like this is expected to be, that’s another issue. It doesn’t help that the Tigers don’t actually have a good win this season with their best ones being against Lipscomb or at South Carolina.
The best thing for Clemson is that it’s filled with experience as Four seniors are in the starting lineup from a group that got a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. The problem is that the Tigers lost their best shooters with leading scorers Marcquise Reed (19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Shelton Mitchell (13.6 ppg) a combined 30 percent from deep. In fact, Clemson’s best three-point shooter David Skara has attempted only the fifth-most on the team. Their size and length is their best trait with Elijah Thomas (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) another top scorer down low, but without shooting, it’ll be hard to beat Virginia. The goal for Reed and Mitchell will be to draw as many fouls as possible and get to the line often like it did when these teams met in last year’s ACC Tournament. Clemson made 16 more free throws, yet was still losing the entire Game. Without free throws, Clemson scored 36 points in the first meeting, albeit that was in Charlottesville.
The other problem for Clemson is that its perimeter defense has been terrible and Virginia has two guys that will take as many shots as possible. Ty Jerome (13.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4. apg) may shoot less than 40 percent from three, but he’s still not a guy to leave open while Kyle Guy (15.8 ppg) has been on fire and is at 47.3%. Throw in De’Andre Hunter who does the little things, freshman point guard Kihei Clark and Braxton Key off the bench and Virginia has the athleticism it didn’t have a year ago. Then there’s Jack Salt and the Virginia post defense that always double teams and that could mean trouble for Elijah Thomas, who isn’t a great passer from the paint.
This is going to be an ugly Game and the only way for Clemson to have a chance is if it limits what Jerome and Guy can do offensively, but also attack on the offensive end. If neither of those things happen, the Tigers may have trouble reaching 50 points, something Florida State and Boston College have had an issue with the last two Games.
Our Pick – Clemson +5.5