Saturday’s loss to Duke was not great for a number of reason that go beyond just losing to your biggest rival. Well, North Carolina doesn’t have too much time to lick their wounds as they’ll be back in action Tuesday night against Clemson. While the Tigers aren’t exactly banging on the NCAA Tournament door, they’re also far from bad enough for UNC to mess around with. With the Heels also now definitely playing for their postseason hopes over the next couple weeks, every game is going to be important, and this one is no different.
Here are three things to look out for when the Heels take on Clemson tomorrow night.
It’s no secret to anyone that’s following this year’s Tar Heel team that they’ve taken some very disappointing losses. Some of them have been of the blowout variety. Licking their wounds after a loss like the Duke one is unfortunately not new for this group.
However this one is a bit different, having come on such a high profile stage against their biggest rival. Between that and the “zero Quad 1 wins” stat and possible NCAA Tournament ramifications now very public, this one is a bit different. Anymore bad or blowout losses and you’re potentially putting more and more nails in your March Madness coffin. They absolutely cannot afford to let Saturday’s struggles linger.
A win at Clemson wouldn’t do anything to remedy that Quad 1 stat, but at the very least they need a win to both wash Saturday out of their mouths and not take an even damaging loss for NCAAT hopes.
Caleb Love’s struggles of late haven’t exactly been of the quiet variety, but both members of the backcourt weren’t at their best on Saturday. While Love was scoring just eight points against Duke, RJ Davis did reach double digits, but went just 4-11 from the field, including an 0-for from beyond the three-point arc.
There also have been plenty of stats that have made the rounds that show that as goes the backcourt (especially Love) so go the Heels. The Clemson game represents a chance for UNC’s backcourt to try and straighten things out.
Clemson’s defense has allowed opposing guards to go off in a couple games this season. An opposing guard has been their teams’ leading scorer in 16 of the 22 games the Tigers have played this season. That’s not to say that every guard that faces them drops 25 points on 13 shots, but several guards over the course of the season have had big nights on their backcourt defense. If UNC need a good Caleb Love to be their best form, then they probably need him to take advantage of this matchup and build up some confidence.
Another test for the frontcourt defense
The UNC defense faced a major test on Saturday in the form of Paolo Banchero. Armando Bacot was put on him to start and drew two early fouls. While there were many problems with that game that went far beyond Bacot going to bench early, that certainly didn’t help. Leaky Black ended up getting the Banchero assignment after that and did a very nice job.
While Clemson certainly doesn’t have anyone on the level of the potential #1 NBA pick Banchero, the Tigers key man is again a big. PJ Hall, a top 50-ish prospect from the class of 2020, leads Clemson in scoring at 14.9 points per game. On the other hand, Clemson other starting big, Hunter Tyson, is out indefinitely after breaking his clavicle last week.
So after Saturday and what happened with Bacot, Black, and Banchero, will we see some sort of different arrangement for UNC against Hall?