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Chris Clarke will keep Virginia Tech contending in 2017-18

 

Virginia Tech returned to the NCAA Tournament this season for the first time since 2007. The Hokies were one of the more exciting offensive teams in the ACC.

Virginia Tech scored 117.5 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom, which ranks 21st nationally. After the ACL injury to Chris Clarke, though, the team was down a key rotation player.

The Hokies will be down two key players next season, but a healthy Clarke will return to assume a bigger role.

 

Little bit of Column A, Little bit of Column B

Clarke is a powerful stat-sheet stuffer. The sophomore became the first player in program history to record a triple-double when he slapped up 13-12-10 against The Citadel. He is an exceptional rebounder, especially on the defensive end.

Per KenPom, Clarke grabbed 22.6 percent of available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor — good for No. 108 nationally. He collected 140 defensive rebounds this season, which despite playing in just 24 games was the 19th-highest total in the ACC.

Playmaking is in his veins, too. Clarke dished out 3.3 assists per game; he is one of the rare ACC forwards this season to post both an assist rate and usage rate above 20 percent. That means that when Clarke was on the floor this season, he assisted on 21.6 percent of his teammates’ made field goals. In addition, 20.1 percent of Virginia Tech’s possessions ended with him shooting, getting fouled or turning the ball over. Before the injury, Clarke and Zach LeDay worked some really nice high-low big-to-big action.

 

Cookie Cutter

It is clear that Clarke has plenty of juice with the ball in his hands. As Seth Allen and Zach LeDay depart, Clarke will have to bring even more of that in 2017-18. However, he is capable of wreaking havoc away from the ball, too.

Clarke shot just 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) on three-pointers. The deep ball is not yet in his repertoire, but he can still make a difference as a cutter.

According to Synergy Sports, Clarke scored 1.4 points per possession on cuts this season — good for sixth in the ACC. He shot 70.4 percent on these possessions and drew a shooting foul 34.2 percent of the time. That is the highest mark in the ACC.

Per KenPom, Clark drew five fouls per 40 minutes in 2016-17, which ranked second-most on Virginia Tech’s roster.

This team has many three-point shooters; there is no such thing as too much shooting, but it is nice to balance that out with a slashing and cutting playmaker like Clarke. It would be no surprise to see Clarke now get some of LeDay’s paint touches, too.

 

Over Yonder

It will be a bear of a task to replace Allen and LeDay — the team’s two leading scorers. However, the future is bright for Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams landed two top-70 recruits who will be on campus next season, and plenty of firepower returns along with Clarke.

Ty Outlaw, Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill all shot above 37 percent from beyond the arc this season on a high volume of attempts. Those three wings can fill it up. Justin Robinson is a burgeoning shot-creator who can also score: 19 games of 10-plus points. Seth LeDay, a potent junior college scorer, will also lace his sneakers up next season after redshirting.

Teams that have a lot of players and can shoot three-pointers efficiently will find success. Buzz Williams is building something in Blacksburg, and it will be fun to see a healthy Clarke roaming the court again.