Coming off of two straight road losses, Virginia will be back in front of their home fans at John Paul Jones Arena on Tuesday night to face the surging Clemson Tigers. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM Eastern, televised on ACC Network.
Clemson enters with a 21-8 overall record, tied with Virginia for third place in the ACC at 13-5. Head Coach Brad Brownell is trying to lead the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament. Most projections have them on the wrong side of the bubble right now. After a devastating loss to Louisville recently, they’ve since bounced back with blowout wins over Syracuse and NC State last week.
They have sort of a throwback roster with only one transfer on the team. It’s an experienced group though. Three seniors are in the starting lineup, including two using their extra season. The NCAA’s NET formula has them ranked 58th, making this a Quad-2 game for the Hoos at home.
The Tigers have the best frontcourt duo in the ACC. Senior forward Hunter Tyson (15.6 PPG) should be an easy first-team all-league selection. He’s dangerous inside and out, shooting 42% from three-point range. And center PJ Hall (15.4 PPG) has become a much more efficient scorer in his junior season. Most of his damage is done in the post, but he can also knock down an open three-pointer.
They start off in a big lineup with sophomore forward Ian Schieffelin (4.8 PPG) joining them. That moves Hunter Tyson out to matchup with one of UVA’s guards, likely Armaan Franklin to start off. Then, they’ll go to a smaller lineup at times and UVA’s forwards need to deal with Tyson. .
Senior Chase Hunter (14.3 PPG) has had a breakout year while moving into the lead guard role. He’s very quick, and shoots it well enough from deep at 37%. Boston College transfer guard Brevin Galloway (11.6 PPG) rounds out the starting lineup. He’s a streaky shooter who just scored a career-high 28 points in Saturday’s win at NC State.
Brownell doesn’t have a particularly strong bench. Sharpshooting senior guard Alex Hemenway (7.3 PPG) hasn’t been much of a factor since returning from injury. After that, it’s all freshmen. Forward RJ Godfrey (3.4 PPG) has earned a bigger role of late. Joshua Beadle (2.4 PPG) is usually the first guard to check in. And forward Chauncey Wiggins (2.7 PPG) leads the team at 46% from deep in limited minutes.
Clemson will be the underdog, but momentum is definitely on their side. These teams could not have had a more opposite past week. The Tigers topped 90 points in each of their two wins, including an impressive 96-71 domination of NC State in Raleigh. Meanwhile, Virginia struggled to score in road losses at Boston College and North Carolina.
Clemson has been on fire from three-point range. They’ve hit 10+ triples in four of six February games. UVA only made a total of eight last week and hasn’t converted better than 33% in a game this month. They’ve been held under 40% from the field in three straight games, something that hadn’t happened prior since December.
This has been a one-sided series in recent years, with the Wahoos winning 9 of the last 10 meetings. UVA had one of their best offensive performances of last season when they scored 75 points at Clemson. Hopefully, they’ll find a way to snap out of the shooting slump against the Tigers again.
Florida State’s dramatic upset of Miami on Saturday kept both Virginia and Clemson alive in the race for the ACC regular season title, or at least a share of it. First-place Pittsburgh is only a game ahead, and they finish the season with a tough one at Miami. Meanwhile, the Hoos and Tigers have very winnable home games this weekend against teams near the bottom of the standings.
It’s impossible for UVA to earn the top seed for the conference tournament, but they would hang a new banner if they finish tied for the regular season championship. Whichever team wins this game has pretty favorable odds of doing just that.
(Featured Image: Matt Riley/UVA Athletics)