Previewing Virginia Tech

A little less than a year ago, a Sharrod Ford dunk at the buzzer against Virginia Tech in the final game of the regular season propelled the Tigers to a victory at Littlejohn Coliseum and secured them a berth into the National Invitation Tournament.

WHAT: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Littlejohn Colisuem (10,000)
TV: None

This season, Clemson has its site set on the NCAA Tournament, and in order to get there, it has to start with a win over those same Hokies Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers enter the game 14-8 overall and 3-6 in the ACC. In order to be extended an invitation to the bigger of the postseason tournaments, they will need to go at least 8-8.

And with only seven conference games remaining, Clemson has to win five of them, which is very possible given its very favorable schedule. But there can't be any miscues, which would include a loss at home to Virginia Tech (12-10, 2-7 ACC).

"In some ways, the schedule is favorable in that we've passed that tough part in terms of having to go on the road two times in a short week where you've got to play three games," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "That certainly doesn't mean that anything is easy from here on out. Virginia Tech is playing much better now and obviously Boston College is playing as well as anybody in the league. … We probably have passed the toughest part, and it hurt us."

Should Clemson fall a game or so short of that magical 8-8 mark, there will be a couple of games coaches, players and fans will be able to point to as the reason why.

First and foremost, the double-overtime loss at home to N.C. State will forever be remembered as the big one that got away. Right next to that is the game against Duke, when Clemson made just 6-of-21 free throws.

There's also the loss at Florida State. With the game tied at 49-49 with eight minutes to play, the Seminoles went on a huge run to ice the game.

The N.C. State and Florida State games were followed by a loss at North Carolina. And while that last one wasn't one the Tigers should have won, it still put them in the midst of the three-game losing streak entering Wednesday.

"We're obviously struggling right now coming into the Virginia Tech game," Purnell said. "One of the reasons is the point that we are in the schedule. It would have been nice to get that N.C. State game at home two games ago in double overtime as we went into this two game stretch. But we didn't and now you've got to go on the road at Florida State and North Carolina in a short week, and we didn't get it done in either one of the three.

"It puts you in a struggling state in terms of having lost three in a row. When you look at the other side of the coin, however if you can get something going at this point, at least we don't have that two or three game road swing anymore this season."

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Virginia Tech (12-10 overall, 2-7 ACC)
G 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200) 15.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G 22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, 200) 10.4 ppg, 4.9 apg
C 13 Deron Washington (6-7, 195) 11.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg
F 11 Wynton Witherspoon (6-7, 185) 7.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg
F 40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6, 213) 6.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg

Clemson (14-8 overall, 3-6 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.7 ppg, 3.4 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F 12 Julius Powell (6-9, 205) 5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg

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