What's Changed Since Then: James Mays remained academically eligible, and the Tigers - up until last weekend - remained undefeated for his entire playing career. Their nonconference schedule wasn't as bad as you think and they opened up the conference schedule with wins over strong teams Florida State and Georgia Tech, plus cellar-dwelling N.C. State before Maryland finally ended their streak.
So how do they do it? With a lot of three-pointers. Clemson takes a higer percentage of their shots from behind the arc than any other ACC team, mostly from the hand of KC Rivers, who has taken most of any player in the ACC, and makes almost 45% of them. The long-distance shooting helps keep them from turning the ball over very often, and for such a perimeter team they pull down an impressive number of offensive boards. What they don't do is get fouled very often, or make their shots from the line - the Tigers are dead last in the nation in free throws made per field goal attempts.
On defense, Clemson looks a lot like Virgina Tech, which is troubling for Carolina. They love generating turnovers, but aren't particular great at effecting their opponent's shot. The Tigers are a bit better at defensive rebounding - thank James Mays for that - and aren't as quick to send the opposing team to the foul line. It doesn't seem to get much attention, but Clemson has been building a pretty strong defense over the last two or three years built probably the best defense behind UNC and Duke in the ACC, and now with an offense to match are beginning to come into their own.
So how do you stop them? As always, UNC's depth is a plus, although Clemson goes nine deep, the talent isn't nearly as impressive coming off the bench. A perimeter defense, backed up with strong defensive rebounding is critical, which is wherethe Heels have excelled in the last two months. As long as the Tigers don't master the Virginia Tech method of driving baskets and transisition offense, the defense should hold. Clemson doesn't play particularly up-tempo basketball, but then again neither did the Hokies, and they adapted quite well last weekend. Offensively, UNC just has to avoid every mistake they made in Blacksburg on Saturday. How difficult could that be.
UNC heads to a hostile arena to meet a surging opponent with a whole lot of hate for them, and it will probably be one of the more difficult games of the year. (Did anyone think that would be the case back in October?) I can't see the Heels dropping two games in a row, but this should be a pretty narrow victory.