Losing on the road is becoming a disappointing trend so far for UVa during conference play. Coming off yet another road loss down in Tallahassee, the Wahoos will be glad to return to the Hook for their midweek battle against Clemson. The Tigers are one of the bigger surprises in the ACC early in conference play and have rattled off an exceptional three straight wins against top-25 teams coming into tonight's game. It's still far too early to really call anything a "must-win" game, but the #13 Virginia team can hardly afford to drop another conference game this early in the season, if they're to have any hope in retaining their regular season championship or a top 2 seed in the NCAA tourney. In fact, both of those goals seems far-fetched after the recent losses, but if you win your conference games at home, you'll at least help avoid the dreaded bubble-talk down the road.
Coming into their visit to Charlottesville, Clemson is sitting at 5-1 in the ACC, with wins over Duke, Louisville, and Miami to their credit. Brad Brownell has his guys clicking on all cylinders (and other sports cliches as well) recently and the team will be looking for its fourth straight victory against a top-25 team. However, before all of that giant-slaying, the Tigers lost this season to UGA, UMass, and Alabama - so they're clearly not infallible.
Junior Jaron Blossomgame has emerged quickly this year as the Tiger's leading scoring and averages over 16 points a game (with over an assist, block, and 7 rebounds to go with them). He also averages over 32 minutes per game played and is the team's best three point shooter. He's a quality player, for sure, but Bennett's defense has shown time and time again that it is capable of shutting down a team's #1 option in a game, so Clemson will need to rely upon more than just Blossomgame to see their...game...blossom...(I apologize for that).
The next two scoring options for Brownell's team are sophomore Donte Grantham and junior Avry Holmes. Neither really shoots the lights out, but they both average around 40% from the field and 10 points a game. Grantham in particular has been on a hot streak over the course of Clemson's recent stretch, so look for UVa's post defense to focus on him. As far as dishing the ball goes, the Tigers rely on senior Jordan Roper to distribute, while also chipping in 9.4 points per game.
Clemson is far and away more so a defensive minded team, which is to be expected from a Brad Brownell group. The Tigers currently rank 16th in the country in points allowed (62.4) while they are tied for 253rd in in scoring (69.8). With the Hoos' recent defensive lapses, this is probably good news, as UVa tends to shoot much better at home and can look to regroup towards their traditional defensive strength. Hopefully they can find enough good shooting to beat Clemson's average, while holding them to their usual night on the other end.
I expect the Hoos to show up big at home again and hopefully exorcise some of their recent demons - mainly so the UVa fanbase doesn't completely burn down the twitterverse. In order to do so, though, they'll need to play much better on both ends of the floor than they did on Sunday (and cut down on some of the obvious inter-team outward frustration).
The game tips off at 8pm on Tuesday, January 19th and will be broadcast on the ACC Network - or ESPN3 for you out of market area folks.