We will be taking you around the conference this season with some great ACC blogs to preview the matchups. Clemson and Virginia tip-off Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Brian Leung from SB Nation's Streaking the Lawn has us covered…
Us: After an impressive early road win at Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers have since lost five of their last six ACC games to fall to 11-10 (2-5 ACC). Where have the 'Hoos gone wrong in that stretch?
Leung: A failure to finish. The Virginia Tech game came off a big win over Minnesota, so maybe the Hoos were riding some sort of adrenaline rush. But in most of our recent conference losses (namely, Carolina, Duke, Wake), Virginia had a double-digit lead in the second half that was just whittled away due to players shutting down offensively and getting sloppy defensively. It's funny because Virginia really is doing a lot of things right. If you're casually looking at the win-loss record or reading box scores, you won't see it show up in the numbers, but you'll see a lot of energy and a lot of production from these guys for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it's a 40-minute game, and at the end of the day, it's the numbers that matter.
Us: How big was the loss of forward Mike Scott for the season, and how has that changed the dynamic of this Virginia team coming into their game with Clemson?
Leung: I thought it would be huge. Fans thought it would be huge. Media thought it would be huge. Turns out though, I don't think this is as big of a loss as we all thought it would be. Granted - given the choice between having him play and having him sit, of course I'd rather have the double-double monster for Virginia on the court for all 40 minutes. But in actuality, various teammates have stepped up in his stead. Assane Sene has had career games for the past three or four now, earning his first double-double on Saturday. Mustapha Farrakhan and Joe Harris are both putting up some offensive numbers that they weren't earlier in the season -- especially Joe. So to answer your question - yes, losing Mike Scott makes us not as great a team as we could be. But in doing so, the rest of the team is stepping it up. Slowly.
Us: We're getting pretty deep into conference play - what are your impressions of the Tigers coming into Charlottesville?
Leung: I think Clemson's better than what their 4-3 ACC record would suggest. I'm trying not to put too much emphasis on the recent rout of Florida State in which the Tigers just did everything right, but looking at their wins and losses, their ACC losses have been by an average of 6 points (all on the road), while their wins have been by an average of 15 points (all at home). While I want to say that the road record is a great predictor of the outcome this week, I'm a little nervous on this one. I think Clemson has the ability to hit the three ball, and that's something we've been struggling to defend against all season long.
ACC Road Win: 'Next step'
Virginia's shooters may stand in the way
Us: Who are the players that Tiger fans need to keep an eye out for?
Leung: Mustapha Farrakhan sets the tone for Virginia. When he's on, UVa generally wins. When he's missing his shots, the Hoos generally lose. Joe Harris -- a freshman -- is another guy to watch out. He's averaging double-figure scoring, and likes to do it with a baseline long ball. Rounding out the Power 3 for Virginia is Assane Sene (this, I guarantee you, is a sentence I never thought I would say...and I'm pretty sure in doing so, I've lost a bet to someone). He is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when comparing the past five games with the rest of his career. If he continues to show prowess on the boards, and if he takes off his mittens when it's game time, Clemson has a lot to worry about there.
Us: What are the keys to Virginia grabbing their third ACC win against Clemson Wednesday night?
Leung: Everyone for Virginia has to be playing their game. Stick with Bennett's pack-line defense, but don't be afraid to step forward and guard the perimeter too, because that's where teams are often beating us. Also, Virginia has to remember that they call it the charity stripe for a reason. The Hoos have been abysmal at the line, and this is costing valuable points for an offense that can be anemic at times. Finally, the Cavaliers need to have confidence. That sounds like a cliche -- it is. But Harris has to take his open shots rather than thinking twice and passing up on it. Sene needs to catch the ball and go up strong -- his lack of confidence at times makes him hesitate too much before putting it back, and that causes costly turnovers. If Virginia can defend the perimeter, make the easy buckets at the line, and shoot with a little confidence, the victory should be theirs.