After earning their first true road win of the season, the Tar Heels are headed to South Carolina to take on the Clemson Tigers. The original plan was for the Tigers to enter this game with only one loss, but a couple of nights ago Miami made them play in a defense-optional shootout that eventually led to their second loss of the season. It’s not a great situation for the Tar Heels to be in to play a team fresh off of a loss on the road, but then again this Tar Heels team is built to deal with it.
Both teams have some new faces this season that are game-changers whenever they are on the floor. Let’s get into that as well as two other things to keep an eye on during tomorrow afternoon’s game.
Can the Heels slow down Joe Girard III and PJ Hall?
By now the Tar Heels are very familiar with Clemson senior center PJ Hall, but there’s also a new face on the team that we know all too well, he’s just in a different orange uniform. Former Syracuse star Joe Girard III transferred to Clemson to continue his college career, and so far it has worked out really well for him. He is currently averaging 15.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and he is shooting at an insane 45.2% clip from three. Together, him and Hall average 36 points per game, and more or less have been unstoppable in every game they’ve played so far.
The name of the game for the Tar Heels will be which players are capable enough to slow down these two excellent Tigers. When it comes to PJ Hall, Harrison Ingram could be a good matchup because of his ability to guard the five spot as well as the perimeter. As far as Girard goes, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of Seth Trimble in this one since he is the team’s best perimeter defender. What could bury the Tar Heels is getting caught up in switching on ball screens and giving the Tigers ideal matchups, but hopefully Hubert Davis and his staff are already coming up with a plan to mix things up when necessary. Hopefully if they limit either one of these guys to a below-average afternoon it will make it a lot easier to come out of this one with a win.
Can Clemson handle the Tar Heels’ offense?
In Clemson’s 82-95 loss to Miami, offense felt like it was far from the primary issue. Making 46% of your shots from the field, 37% of them from deep, and also winning the second-chance point battle should be enough to at worst result in a close loss, but their defense sank them in ways that they just couldn’t come back from. The Hurricanes made 53% of their shots from the field, 46% from three, and shot 15 free throws to Clemson’s nine. The worst part? Five Hurricanes players scored 10+ points, and three of them scored more than 20.
For what it’s worth, Miami is a really good team that would probably still be ranked if they didn’t suffer a loss to unranked Colorado — which by the way was a Quad 1 game if we need proof that the AP poll and the NET rankings will never co-exist in a way that make sense. I digress, Miami is a top-20 team in offense according to Kenpom, which makes them the second-best offense the Tigers have faced this season so far. The Tar Heels could present matchup problems for this team, especially with how well RJ Davis, Seth Trimble, and Armando Bacot are playing right now. If Harrison Ingram and/or Cormac Ryan can get into a groove as well, or if Jalen Washington can stretch the floor whenever he enters the game, there’s a decent chance that we could see another shootout that results in Clemson suffering their third loss of the season.
Can Armando Bacot best Ian Schieffelin in a rebound battle?
I’m sure that discussing rebounding when it comes to any Carolina game feels like low-hanging fruit, but Saturday’s game could be really interesting in that department. Right now Armando Bacot and Clemson center Ian Schieffelin are ranked 1st and 2nd in the ACC in total rebounds for the season, averaging 10.8 and 9.8 respectively. It’s even more interesting of a matchup when you consider that Bacot finally hit double-digit rebounds against Pitt after failing to do so for four games in a row.
If we’re to look at pure physical attributes, it’s fair to say that Bacot should be able to win this battle hands-down. The problem is that he hasn’t really been able to dominate the class like he has in previous years, and if we’re being honest, played a role in the loss to Kentucky. Hubert Davis needs Bacot to be on top of his game in this one, and he will also need help from Harrison Ingram, who just had a 15-rebound game against Pitt and ranks second on the team in that department. Second-chance points pretty much sealed the win for the Heels in Pittsburgh, and it is very possible that it will make or break their trip to Littlejohn Coliseum.