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Virginia Tech vs #21 Clemson Preview and Prediction

Hunter Cattoor 1 VT Miami 2023 TS
Photo Credit: Taelor Shema

Tonight at 7 pm, the 21st ranked Clemson Tigers visit Cassell Coliseum to face a Virginia Tech Hokies team desperately in need of a big win.

The Hokies enter the evening in 12th place in the ACC after falling in consecutive games to Wake Forest and Florida State, dropping to just 1-2 in the ACC and 9-5 overall. However, Virginia Tech enters the game with an impressive 8-0 home record, including their only ACC win against the Louisville Cardinals. The Hokies will look to keep the magic alive against by far the best team that has visited Cassell this season.

Meanwhile, Clemson also comes into the game looking to end a two-game skid including a 13-point loss at Miami, and a 10-point loss versus the eighth ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Despite their two-game losing streak equal to that of Virginia Tech, Clemson enters the night with the highest quality win of either squad, in an 85-77 road win against the 23rd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tigers also have a victory over South Carolina who the Hokies lost to during the opening week of the season.

While Clemson leaves a lot to be desired defensively, they possess the 30th most efficient offense in the country, behind stellar shooting splits across the board including above 48% from the field, 37% from thre-point range, and nearly 76% from the free throw line. Clemson checks in the top 50 in the country in all of these departments, and they will certainly be looking to get back on track after a horrific shooting game against North Carolina in which they shot just 36% from the floor, and went just 1-18 from behind the arc.

Clemson is led by 6'10'' center PJ Hall, who is the ACC’s second leading scorer averaging 19.5 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds and about two blocks per game. Hall will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement against the Hokies, coming off his lowest scoring game of the season, with just 10 points against the Tar Heels. Similarly, high-scoring Syracuse transfer Joe Girard will be looking to bounce back after a five-point night where he shot just 1-10 from the field including 0-4 from long range. Girard, a top four three-point shooter in the ACC in terms of volume and efficiency, is simply too good of a shooter to expect to have another performance like that. Expect Girard to return to form and at least hit his average of 15 points per game.

Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is led by their big 3 of Sean Pedulla, Hunter Catoor, and Lynn Kidd. Despite the loss to Florida State, the Hokies' star guards are both coming off of excellent scoring games including a 26-point performance from Pedulla and 19 points on 5-6 from long range from Cattoor. That game, in particular, was a great sign for Sean Pedulla who is shooting less than 40% from the field, and was coming off four straight single-digit outings.

Coming into the season, many people expected Pedulla to lead the Hokies in scoring, and while he has struggled to find his shot for much of the season, his performance against Florida State was very encouraging. Look for Pedulla to feed off of his hot night and stay aggressive against the Tigers, along with starting center Lynn Kidd.

Kidd, who leads the Hokies in scoring and rebounding, and leads the entire conference in field goal percentage, had his worst game of the season, only scoring two points on 1-5 from the field versus the Seminoles. While the starting backcourt was playing spectacular basketball, the Hokies needed their inside presence to remain consistent. Expect the Hokies to try to get Lynn Kidd more involved tonight to create better balance as they look for better frontcourt play overall from him and the rest of Tech's power forwards and centers.

While on the surface the Clemson Tigers are a far superior team to the Virginia Tech Hokies, Clemson only enters the game as one and a half point favorites due to their two-game skid, and the Hokies' home cooking in Cassell so far this season. With both teams sitting at just 1-2 in the ACC, both squads will come out ready to play, and will likely provide a very entertaining game for the fans.

Keys to the Game

Can Virginia Tech Find Their Collective Three-Point Shooting?

The Hokies have a team capable of lighting it up from three-point range, but have just been too inconsistent from deep this season at just 34.5% down from about 36% last season. As expected Hunter Cattoor is one of the best shooters in the ACC knocking down 2.6 threes per game at about 41%. However, Sean Pedulla and Tyler Nickel are both below 36% on the year. Both Pedulla and Nickel are better shooters than their percentages show, so it may take one of them getting hot from deep to keep the Hokies in the game with Clemson’s more consistent shooting.

The Tigers shoot above 37% from deep behind volume shooting from PJ Hall and Chase Hunter and efficient shooting from Joe Girard and Alex Hemenway. Girard and Hall will be hunting for their shots after each had their worst game of the season against UNC.

Can the Hokies Big 3 All Have Big Nights?

Virginia Tech has had great production from Sean Pedulla, Hunter Cattoor, and Lynn Kidd on separate nights, but they can’t seem to get great games from all three at the same time when they need them to.

The other day against Florida State, it was all about the backcourt, while against Wake Forest, Cattoor and Kidd did the heavy lifting on a Pedulla off night. This has been the story all year, and while two of their three stars shooting well is good enough to beat mid-majors, Virginia Tech needs all three to play well to have a good chance at beating the Tigers.

Prediction: #21 Clemson 80, Virginia Tech 74

The Hokies will keep it close behind another big game from Sean Pedulla and their consistently great play at home. However, Clemson will get the win due to big time bounce back games from Joe Girard and PJ Hall, who will both score at least 20 points in the win.

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