On Sunday, the Virginia Basketball team survived a scare against a scrappy Wake Forest team, that was leading 24-22 going into halftime. In a game where points came at a premium, Virginia needed an immediate jolt in the second half. Three-point specialist and sophomore guard, Kyle Guy came out of the break aggressive and attacking the basket at will, scoring or assisting on the teams first nine points. From this point on, their pack-line defense started to put a stranglehold on the Demon Deacons, only allowing ONE three-point shot. Virginia also was able to loosen the Deacons zone and find clean looks for De’Andre Hunter.
It only gets harder down the ACC conference trek, as they are now up to face #20 ranked Clemson Tigers, who have two signature wins over the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes. In their last game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Clemson was able to make clutch plays down the stretch to pull away late. Junior guard Shelton Mitchell was fantastic offensively, scoring 10 of the Tiger’s final 20 points after Notre Dame cut an 11-point deficit to 47-46. Senior guard Gabe DeVoe knocked down an important three-pointer with 3:18 left to prevent any sort of daylight for the Irish to pull off the road win.
However, things weren’t all fine and dandy for the Tigers, who lost Clemson captain Donte Grantham for the season, after tearing his ACL. He was the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He will be heavily missed in a matchup against college basketball’s number one defense in the nation, who looks to win their 11th straight on Tuesday Night. Here is my preview and prediction for the game.
Preview and Prediction: Virginia Basketball vs Clemson Tigers
The last time these two faced off, it was a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire, with Virginia coming out on top 77-73. Both teams leading scorers for the night, London Perrantes and Jaron Blossomgame, are now in the NBA, making this matchup completely different from the last one.
Virginia’s offensive has blossomed tremendously, as they do not have to rely on one key player to produce all the scoring. Last year, Virginia only had one impact player who averaged in double figures in senior point guard London Perrantes, who is now playing in the G-league in hopes to make an NBA roster. Though Virginia’s roster hasn’t vastly changed, individual players have improved considerably. The offseason workouts and consistent basketball training these players endured has paid dividends, as there are now numerous scoring options Virginia can go to.
Every starter and rotation player has reached double-digit scoring and shown the ability to make the right play. This has alleviated much of the stress in dealing with having just one player produce all the offense for a team as we are currently witnessing with Oklahoma’s star guard Trae Young. This team now faces a 35th ranked Clemson defense that is allowing 65.2 points per game. With teeter-tottering baskets exchanged in the last matchup, anticipate more of a lower-scoring game where Virginia conducts the pace and forces Clemson to become an efficient offense.
Virginia knows how to attack strong defenses, as they are 3-1 against teams with top 30 defenses. They rely on their backcourt trio of Devon Hall, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy to detect holes and provide scoring prowess to overwhelm teams. They all are deadly from three-point range, shooting at least 41%. They know how to get the ball to their forwards De’Andre Hunter and Isaiah Wilkins in the paint, who are efficient from mid-range and attack the bodies of opposing big men.
Clemson’s backcourt will need to find ways to shoot at least 40% from three-point range to make this contest competitive. It’s the only flaw with Virginia’s pack-line defense, which mainly focuses on preventing dribble penetration and post play. Clemson will have to move the ball quickly around screens and find ways to not get trapped in double teams. Hot scoring from deep will be the only demise of this Virginia team and it won’t happen at John Paul Jones Arena. Losing your second best scorer will negatively impact what Clemson can do offensively and it will show on Tuesday. I expect this to be another double-digit win for Virginia, who will look to rebound after cold shooting at Wake Forest.