North Carolina vs Clemson, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
UNC opens ACC play in what is historically a mortal lock for a Tar Heel win. Carolina welcomes Clemson to Chapel Hill where the Tigers have never won in 57 tries and the odds of the 58th being any different aren't great. At the same time, conference play means the level of play goes up a notch from the non-league slate. The coaches and teams are often very familiar with each other and that can make some games more challenging than they might otherwise be on paper.
In this case, there are some concerns for UNC on paper. The Tar Heel defense has been awfully suspect this season. The recent absence of Kennedy Meeks has exacerbated some of the defensive issues. The defensive rebounding rate has taken a hit and overall UNC has struggled to limit even bad teams from shooting well. The three point shooting defense is at an all-time low for the Roy Williams era both in 3PA% and 3P%. That, in and of itself, is a source of concern in ACC play given even some of the weaker teams can get hot from three.
As UNC faces Clemson, the Tigers three point shooting is the primary source of concern. Clemson is taking 41% of all shots from three and hitting 35% of them. With three players at 37% or better, including two at 6-7+, the defensive difficulties for UNC will be real. Clemson's primary offensive weapon is Jaron Blossingame averaging 15.1 ppg with an offensive rating of 123.4. Blossingame is hitting 37% of his threes and 59% on twos with a respectable 70% shooting percentage at the line. Limiting Blossingame will be a tough draw, one that Justin Jackson will likely get.
In terms of style, Clemson is the second slowest team in the ACC and a slower game does not favor UNC. Speeding up the Tigers will be key but also tough considering the Tigers has a TO% of 16.4 and not prone to miscues. Clemson's is 72nd in defensive rebounding rate which will limit some of UNC's opportunities off missed shots. Even if the pace is slow, UNC has shown the ability to score when it needs to through a variety of weapons. Maintaining that level of efficiency, even as a slower pace should be enough to seize control of the game and get a win to close out the calendar year.
UNC 80 Clemson 66