(02/09, 1:00pm, Charlottesville)
Virginia is unique in the ACC for its balanced mediocrity. Most teams have something to point to as being above average, even lowly Georgia Tech can point to a pretty decent defense. Right now Virginia is looking toward the future hoping that their young players have enough upside to get the team back into ACC contention. I don't usually buy the lack of experience argument, I tend to think raw talent and good coaching are a lot more important than experience. Even so, I have to admit ranking 319 of 344 in division I average player experience has to be a disadvantage, particularly in this conference.
On offense, Virginia does a reasonable job of avoiding turnovers and also crashes the offensive boards well. But this last stat can be misleading, if you are terrible at shooting the ball (effective field goal percentage rank in division 1: 294th), you naturally have more opportunities to snag an offensive board, thus inflating your offensive rebound percentage; calculated by the simple formula: OR%=(OR/(OR+DR)), where OR is number of offensive rebounds and DR is number of defensive rebounds. (Conversely, a team that shoots the ball extremely well will have less opportunities for offensive rebounds, a couple of poster teams over the last couple of years would be BYU and Arizona State). There is probably a way to adjust for this by considering the total shot differential between teams in a game, but this would have to be adjusted for rate of three point shooting, etc. and gets complicated fast. I haven't seen anyone making this kind of adjustment, at least not for college stats. My guess is it would result in only a small adjustment for a handful of teams, but Virginia very well could be affected.
One player to look out for on offense is freshman Sylven Landesberg, who is making a bid to replace Tyler Hansborough next year as the human ACC foul-drawing machine. He also hits his free throws at about an 85% clip, a big part of the team 74.4% mark.
At any rate, none of this compensates for Virginia's abysmal field goal percentage. And go ahead and cue the tape again--its going to be another Sykes/Booker/Grant blockfest: Virginia ranks 312 in the country in percentage of shots that get blocked.
On defense, Virginia is hovering around division I average in just about any stat category you can come up with (good for third-worst overall in the ACC). They are pretty bad at forcing steals and otherwise inducing turnovers, making Demontez Stitt quite happy, I'm sure.
Any areas of concern for Clemson? Well, Virginia is effectively pretty tall (34th in the nation), and we've noted Clemson's difficulties with tall teams. However, its important to realize there are two factors in Clemson's matchup of doom equation--effective height and good defense. Let's not forget, NC State is an extremely tall team, but they don't put it too much use on the defensive end, and Clemson handled them quite well.
Really, there is no reason for Clemson to lose this game. If Virginia completely reinvents itself with a renewed focus on defense and manages to...okay I'll stop. There's no reason** for Clemson to lose this game.
(**Unless, of course, the basketball lords of improbable statistical occurrence conspire to make our lives miserable by causing every call, every bounce to go the other way. But this is always possible in basketball no matter the opponent, remember Gardner-Webb beating Kentucky last year, or Harvard beating Boston College this year?)