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#1 UNC vs #3 Clemson

What: ACC Championship
Where: Bobcat Arena, Charlotte, NC
When: Sunday, March 16th, 1 PM
Records: UNC 31-2, 16-2 ACC; Clemson 24-8, 12-6 ACC

Triple overtime anyone?

First of all, some meaningless stats.

  • Through Saturday UNC is 41-11 as the #1 seed
  • Against Clemson UNC is 13-1 in the ACC Tournament and 62-1 in the state of North Carolina.
  • The Heels are 6-5 in title games as a #1 seed.
  • UNC is 9-4 versus the #3 seed in the ACC Tournament
  • UNC is 20-7 in ACC Tournament games played in Charlotte
  • Clemson has not been in an ACC Tournament final since 1962.

Not that any of those numbers mean anything, interesting nonetheless.

I agree with everyone who has said that Clemson is not a team UNC wanted to see again. However I would submit that Clemson beating Duke(along with UT losing) is more beneficial to the bigger picture. UNC is likely locked in the #1 seed in the East with the Raleigh-Charlotte path to the Final Four. Winning or losing this game will have little impact since attrition had left the committee with four clear choices for top seeds in each of the four regionals. That being said, I still want another ACC title. I also would love to beat Clemson straight up without any complaints about how they almost beat the Heels or griping the refs screwed them over.

The general feel out there is that Clemson is playing so well and UNC was "lucky" the first and second time these two teams played. There is an overall vibe that this is not your father's Clemson team and there is an actual belief that the Tigers can win the ACC Championship. The fact they came oh so close to winning in Chapel Hill lends hope to the idea that Clemson has turned that age old corner and is ready to win. UNC squeak two wins out in which they were trailing and would have lost had they been given to just rolling over.

On the other hand, Clemson needs to be wary of potential opposite effect. There are times when people are so sure of a certain result based on merit filled arguments that we call get surprised by something quite the opposite happening. So in this case where folks expect a close game and Clemson finding a way to pull off the big win, you could just as easily end up with a game where UNC controls the whole operation. In other words it is a crapshoot and anything could happen.

Clemson matches up with UNC at almost every spot. Their press is fairly tough to break and they have the required interior strength to throw Hansbrough out of sync. If Lawson were at 100% I would expect him to step up and gets some easy buckets. However he is not but the combo of QT and Lawson has been effective enough, the question is how will it work against a team that can play defense for 94 feet. UNC also needs Green/Ellington to make shots and not wait for the last three minutes to do it. Controlling the boards however will be the stiffest challenge, particularly when limiting second chance points.

The only other question is to what extent does the experience on the Tar Heel squad, especially in a game like this, matter. All of these players won a title last season and understand what it means to play and win in a loser go home game. How will Clemson players handle not only the prospect of winning the ACC but trying to end so many decades of frustration? It seemed like it weighed on them a bit in the game at Chapel Hill when they were very close to ending The Streak. It will be interesting to see if it comes into play here and if so can UNC take advantage of having been here before which can be a tremendous psychological edge.

If this game is played anywhere close to the way the other two UNC games were played it should be a fun and cardiac issues inducing, all at the same time.

UNC 82 Clemson 80