Virginia Tech (15-16) vs. Clemson (16-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Philips Arena (18,729) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: ESPNU, ACC Network. Home Record: VT 11-7, Clemson 11-5. Away Record: VT 3-9, Clemson 4-8. Neutral Record: VT 1-0, Clemson 1-1. Conference Record: VT 4-12, Clemson 8-8. Series Record: Virginia Tech leads, 13-12.
GAME NOTES: Virginia Tech and Clemson have never met in the ACC Tournament, but that will change tonight as the 10th-seeded Hokies tangle with the No. 7 seed Tigers in first-round action at Philips Arena.
Virginia Tech holds a slim 13-12 series lead. The teams split the regular- season series, although Clemson notched a 58-56 home victory in the most recent meeting on March 1, capping a season-long three-game win streak. The winner of today's matchup will advance to second-seeded Duke Friday night in the quarterfinal round.
The Hokies struggled through their league schedule, posting a 4-12 record and often falling in close games. Twelve of those 16 contests were decided by five points or fewer, including six of the last seven. Virginia Tech closed out the regular season with four consecutive losses.
Clemson won 16 games overall this season and finished .500 in the ACC. The Tigers got hot late, winning five of six entering Sunday's season finale at Florida State. They came up short in that game, 80-72, but will look to rebound now in postseason play.
The Hokies were a solid defensive team, ranking fourth in scoring defense (62.4 ppg), but struggled to find offensive consistency, ranking 10th in the league in field-goal percentage (.423). Guard Erick Green was a second-team All-ACC pick, as he led the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. The last time these teams met, Green had his streak of 30 straight games in double-figure scoring snapped as he finished with eight points. Fellow guard Dorenzo Hudson is second on the team with 10.8 ppg, while forward Dorian Finney-Smith (6.3 ppg) was named to the conference's All-Freshman team. He leads VT in rebounding (6.8 rpg) and ranks second in blocked shots (23). Starting forward Victor Davila (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) has missed the last six games with left groin and hip injuries and is questionable for tonight's contest. In Sunday's 70-58 loss against NC State to finish up the regular season, VT forced 18 turnovers but allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 51.1 percent from the floor. The Hokies were also out-rebounded, 40-25. Cadarian Raines scored a team-high 15 points in the setback, while Finney-Smith posted 14 points and eight boards, and Green finished with 12 points.
Clemson's strength comes at the defensive end of the floor, where the team finished second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing a mere 60.4 ppg. Senior guard Andre Young headlines the squad with his play at both ends, leading the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), while also being named to the ACC's All-Defensive Team. Young led the conference in steals per game (1.7) and he also scored in double figures in 23 games. He ranks fifth in the ACC in three- point field goals per game (2.1) and three-point percentage (.342), and seventh in assists per game (3.2). Down low, Devin Booker is averaging 10.7 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per tilt. However, the Tigers do have a key injury concern heading into the tournament. Senior leader Tanner Smith, who is just 26 points short of 1,000 for his career, suffered a head injury after a hard fall to the floor against Florida State game on Sunday and is listed as questionable. Smith is the team's second-leading scorer (11.1 ppg), third-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg) and he ranks third in the ACC with 4.1 assists per game. In Sunday's loss at FSU, Young led the way with 16 points while Booker posted his fifth double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 boards, marking the 11th time in the last 14 games he has led or tied for the team rebounding lead.
Since Tech joined the ACC in 2004-05, 10 of the 12 meetings between these two schools have been decided by five points or less, and both meetings this year were decided by just two points. This meeting doesn't figure to be any different, but the Tigers will be hard-pressed to replace Smith's production if he is unable to play. Likewise, the Hokies could really use Davila in the paint to bang around with Young.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 69, Virginia Tech 64
03/08 10:32:38 ET