Virginia looks to continue its newest winning streak when they host the Clemson Tigers tonight at 7:00 pm. To prepare for the game, I contacted one of the writers over at Shakin' the Southland - who I happen to have known for about three decades - to help us out with a Q&A, and he graciously agreed.
Of course, that also means I helped them out with a Q&A as well. You can read my answers over at STS (I
'll post a link once it is live which they are actually using as their game thread for tonight). Make sure to check them out and thank them for working with us.
Streaking the Lawn: At 3-3 in the ACC, Clemson is in the middle of the conference, tied with a bunch of other 3-loss teams. How would you rate the Tigers' performance during the conference slate so far?
Shakin' the Southland: After the way Clemson played out of conference, I had to lower my expectations heading into conference play. I was thinking 6-10 in the conference would be good for this team. Sitting at 3-3, I would have to say I'm pleasantly surprised with our record, but not necessarily with how we've played each game. The loss to BC is a bad loss no matter how you look at it, but picking up a W over FSU helps to soften the blow. We eeked out a win over GT that we tried to give away in the last minutes. That said, wins are wins and I don't think we're necessarily in a place now to complain about how we win.
STL: By now, everyone knows that Virginia's signature is Tony Bennett's Pack-Line Defense. What would you say is Clemson's signature under second-year coach Brad Brownell?
STS: Brownell is also known for his defense. He wants to slow the pace of play, execute in the halfcourt offense, and play tight man to man. He has the propensity to throw in an occasional zone if the opponent starts to get in a groove. This is a welcome change from the days of Oliver Purnell. Purnell was a 40 minutes of hell guy who wanted to press all game long. While his teams could be fun to watch (and other times frustrating), they gave up a lot of easy baskets and struggled with basic fundamentals in the halfcourt defense. Brownell cleaned that up early last year and turned Clemson into one of the conference's best defensive teams.
STL: On Saturday night, N.C. State's Richard Howell picked up roughly 318 offensive rebounds against Virginia. Does Clemson have anyone likely to do that to us again?
STS: Fear not, as Clemson doesn't have anyone that is going to clean up the glass the way Howell is capable of doing. Devin Booker is our best rebounder, clearing about 7 rpg in 29 minutes of action. He can be lazy at times and gets caught watching the game instead of attacking the glass. However, when he is motivated he's a threat to follow dunk at any time. he's had several highlight reel putbacks already this year.
STL: Senior guard Andre Young has scored 48 points in the last two games. Should we be concerned?
STS: Yes and no. I say yes because after struggling early he has caught fire of late. He is a very good shooter and if he is given an open look, he's been almost automatic in the past 2 games (10-15 from 3). However, I know how good of a defender Jontel Evans is and I know he won't make it easy for Young. Evans is very physical and with Young's diminutive size, that could be a problem in this game. Look for Brownell to try to push the ball a little more in an attempt to get Young and an open look or two in transition.
STL: What is Clemson more likely to stop in Virginia's offense: The inside presence of Mike Scott or the outside shooting of Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski?
STS: Forced to pick, I'd have to say neither. Mike Scott has been fabulous all year and I expect him to get his against anyone UVA goes up against. I hope that Brownell decides to give Booker and Jennings help inside in an effort to make Scott get his points in the most inefficient manner as possible (Editor's Note: After we wrote this Q&A, Clemson announced that Milton Jennings had been suspended indefinitely, and thus won't be playing against Virginia tonight). I'd double off of Evans and make him prove he can hit an outside shot.
Clemson's perimeter defense has looked a little lost at times. We play a lot of freshmen guards and they can get caught watching the paint dry. As you know, if you give Harris or Zeglinski an inch they can make you pay. They should get some open looks, and, playing on their homecourt, I expect them to knock them down.
STL: Final score prediction?
STS: I've been really impressed by the way UVA has played all season. They can really frustrate opposing offenses because their defense is so spectacular. Clemson isn't soon to be confused for one of the better offensive teams in the country. I expect UVA to make it very difficult for Clemson to get good looks. Clemson may be able to keep it close because they generally put forth pretty good defensive efforts, but I just can't see a scenario where they can score enough to get the W. Clemson's 3 conference losses were all on the road and I think that trend continues.
I'll go with UVA winning 61-53.