Virginia Tech at Clemson Preview and Pick

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Jan 22, 2017
[caption id="attachment_5102" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Can Seth Allen and the Hokies get a big road win at Clemson? [Credit: Harley Taylor] Can Seth Allen and the Hokies get a big road win at Clemson? [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]The Virginia Tech Hokies did not have a great game this past Wednesday night shooting a poor 40% from the field, but the Hokies found a way to get a victory over Georgia Tech. Now, the Hokies head on the road for back-to-back games starting with a Sunday night game at Clemson in a battle between two NCAA Tournament-caliber teams with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi having VT as a 10 seed and Clemson as a 11 seed entering this weekend. Brad Brownell is in his seventh season in charge at Clemson with only NCAA Tournament and one NIT appearance with this year seeming almost certain to be the third postseason trip, but Clemson entered season with NCAA Tournament expectations and Brownell could be on the hot seat next year if the Tigers don't make the NCAA Tournament while the Hokies continue to be on the rise under Buzz Williams as Buzz exceeded all expectations in his first two seasons. The big matchup will come on the wing between two big, talented wing players in Jaron Blossomgame and Chris Clarke. Blossomgame is one of the ACC's best player and while he has struggled immensely from beyond the arc this season, Blossomgame is still averaging 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 33.3 minutes per game. Blossomgame has had 20+ points in four of his six ACC games this season and presents a big challenge for Clarke as someone who can score in plenty of different ways and showed signs of life from beyond the arc against Louisville going 2-for-4 from deep. However, Clarke won't be afraid of attacking Blossomgame and playing physically on defense as Clarke has stepped his game up this season and has done it all, averaging 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.4 assists in 28.9 minutes per game while also having 10-straight games of 10+ points after scoring double-digit points in only 2 of 8 games previously. This matchup between Clarke and Blossomgame should be fascinating to watch being a battle between one of the ACC's stars in Blossomgame and one of the ACC's emerging stars in Clarke. Rebounding could make a big difference in this game for one of these teams more than normal as both are poor rebounding teams with the Hokies averaging 35.6 rebounds per game and Clemson averaging less with 34.4 rebounds per game and neither team having great size. This is another area where guys like Clarke and Blossomgame could make a big impact as very good rebounders for their size though Clemson does have more size overall and that could make a difference on the glass. Clemson has been shooting under 35% from three this season while the Hokies are shooting a solid 38.4% from three but the Hokies' wings have struggled immensely from beyond the arc lately while VT has also been a worse three-point shooting team on the road then at home. If one team can get going from three, it could make a big difference on this game. Clemson's shooting also hasn't been very good in general this season as they are shooting 44.8% as a team with only one of their top 6 scorers shooting over 44% from the field in their star Blossomgame while all four of Virginia Tech's starters are shooting over 44% with Zach LeDay, Chris Clarke, and Seth Allen all shooting over 50% from the field. However, Virginia Tech's issues could come at the free-throw line and while it helped them beat Georgia Tech, it cost them against Notre Dame with the Hokies only shooting 70% from the line this season compared to 72.1% for Clemson. Virginia Tech also hasn't been as good from the line on the road, but have been able to step up in the past and make big free throws as they did at times last season. This should be a fantastic game between two games that can create some more space between themselves and the bubble with a win while the loser, especially if it's Clemson, will be starting to get closer to being right on the bubble. This is going to be a very close game that is basically a toss-up and will come down to which star players can step up more than their opponents. Expect Jaron Blossomgame to have a big game, but the Hokies have five players averaging double-figures compared to 2 for Clemson and that diversity of options will make a difference along with the Hokies being the better shooting team with momentum. Chris Clarke will play well against Blossomgame while veterans Zach LeDay and Seth Allen will once again have strong performances to lead the Hokies to a big road victory over a struggling Clemson team that will be right on the bubble in a game that will be just as tight as the one in Blacksburg on Wednesday night.

Pick: Virginia Tech 73, Clemson 72