USA TODAY Sports
UNC travels to Littlejohn Coliseum which might be the second worst place for the Tar Heels after Atlanta.
North Carolina(19-8, 9-5 ACC) at Clemson(13-13, 5-9 ACC), 7:00 PM, ESPN
It would be easy to talk about this being a letdown or trap game but that is really beside the point. This is a game at Clemson which has been a very tough place to play for every ACC team that has gone there this season. Virginia lost by 15 at Clemson while NC State and Miami both needed late game heroics to escape
the Fifth Circle of Hell western South Carolina with a win. It has been a tough environment despite Clemson's relative mediocrity as a team. In other words, this being a letdown game is the least of UNC's concerns.
Clemson is a slower tempo team(okay, who isn't a slower tempo team at this point.) The Tigers ranked 306th in KenPom at around 62 possessions per game. Their defense is only slightly better than UNC's ranked 43rd overall. The offense on the other hand is 178th meaning most games involving Clemson are straight-up ugly affairs from start to finish. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone should both teams shoot poorly and it comes down to a handful of plays for one to prevail.
For UNC this game is a necessary one to win in terms of continuing the momentum that has been building during the small lineup portion of the season. The win at home over NC State was a nice feather in the cap for the NCAA Tournament resume which the Wolfpack bolstered some by winning last night against Boston College. The worst possible scenario would be to give progress back by losing to a team ranked 148th in the RPI. That would be an unfortunate addition to the "bad losses" line and not something the Heels can afford.
Clemson's lineup doesn't present the issues that NC State did. The size is similar but 6-9 Milton Jennings is only 225 lbs and also likes to work on the perimeter. That might negate P.J. Hairston going the other direction but overall UNC's should not have any major match-up issues, at least on paper. The Tigers are not a great three point shooting team at 32% and with only one player above 36% in the person of Jordan Roper. Jennings is a 36% shooter from behind the arc.
Given the state of Clemson's offense, a solid defensive effort from UNC should take care of things providing the Heels can hit some shots. And that is always a dicey proposition.
UNC 54 Clemson 48