NCAA Hopes Depend on Win in Blacksburg

CLEMSON – For the first time in a while, the Clemson basketball team enters a game not coming off of a loss. And guard K.C. Rivers believes that could be the difference in how the Tigers do Sunday at Virginia Tech.

What: Clemson (20-9, 6-9 ACC) at No. 21 Virginia Tech (20-9, 10-5 ACC)
Where: Cassell Coliseum
When: 1 p.m., Sunday
TV: Raycom/Lincoln Financial

"(Our confidence) is getting back on track to where it used to be," he said. "(The win) really gave us a higher confidence level. We're going to continue to play hard and try to pull out this win at Virginia Tech. Once we get everybody back on the same page again it's going to turn for the better."

If it doesn't, then Clemson will likely be hosting another below average team in the first round of the NIT.

However, making the matter more difficult for the Tigers now is the fact that Virginia lost to Wake Forest Saturday afternoon, which means the No. 21 Hokies have a chance to win the regular season ACC title.

Had the Cavaliers lost, there would have been nothing for Virginia Tech play for. Now, it has more motivation.

"You want to go in not trying to think about everything," Clemson forward James Mays said. "When you start trying to think about everything, that's when you start making mistakes. We'll just go in like any other game, try to stay confident. We know we can win."

The first person the Tigers have to concern themselves with is Zabian Dowdell, who is expected to make the All-ACC first team. The left-handed point guard is the main scorer for Virginia Tech at just over 18 points per game.

His backcourt teammate, Jamon Gordon, is averaging just over 11 points a game, himself. And he, too, is left-handed.

"Some people don't understand, it's kind of hard guarding a left-handed person because it's unorthodox," said Rivers, who is a lefty as well. "You don't know which way they're going. They're both good guards and can really fool people. They break you down and kind of a get away with whatever they want – that's just how good they are."

The inside game for Virginia Tech is also solid, especially defensively. Coleman Collins and Deron Washington combine to average 20 points a game, but it's their ability to rebound and block shots that causes teams fits.

But, again, it all starts and ends with Virginia Tech's guards.

"They're real big," Mays said. "Washington's one of their best players. He does a lot off the ball, gets charges, gets a lot of highlight plays that get things going. But their guard play is outstanding and that's what they live off of."

Even with all that said, there's still a real shot for the Tigers to beat Virginia Tech, which has shown it isn't perfect, either.

"It's their last home game for their seniors, so it's definitely going to be another fight," Mays said. "It could go down to the wire, but if we come out and play like we know we can then it should be no contest."

Clemson (20-9, 6-9 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 215) 9.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 222) 12.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 210) 13.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

No. 21 Virginia Tech (20-9, 10-5 ACC)
G 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 190) 18.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg
G 22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, 212) 11.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
C 33 Coleman Collins (6-9, 243) 8.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
F 40 A.D. Vassalo (6-6, 217) 11.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F 13 Deron Washington (6-7, 205) 11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg Top Stories