I once went to Clemson for tennis camp. I was bad at tennis, but always game to try to get better, and had (barely) made the Guy B. Phillips Middle School tennis team. So I spent a summer week in Clemson, slowly baking in the South Carolina sun. I don’t remember much of it, thanks to the ever-increasing years separating me and my carefree youth working on a forehand that would never quite get there, but I think it was a generally positive experience.
That being said, if I had life to do over, I would go to Clemson in the winter. It is hot there in July, a lot like the North Carolina piedmont but ever-so-slightly closer to the sun, a cruelty of latitude for a chubby 13-year-old running wind sprints on a tennis court that may as well have been an airbake cookie sheet.
Much better, then, to make a trip in early January. The Tar Heel men’s basketball will be following my sage advice, travelling southbound from the southern part of heaven to face a Top 20 Tigers team that will be looking to rebound, both literally and figuratively, after an embarrassing loss to an unranked (although perhaps not for long) Miami team. Clemson rebounds at the fourth-highest clip in the ACC this season; the Tar Heels are in third, but only just.
Another ranked matchup, the first of a likely few in conference, and an opportunity to put yet another feather in our collective cap. Clemson would be likely to remain a Quad 1 win, should the Heels go into the Tigers’ den and leave victorious. This is an important game not only because it’s a conference contest, but because of the implications on the postseason. This is also an important game for the fans, simply because it’s always good to get one up on our neighbors to the south; even more important to me specifically, though, seeing as my parents have moved behind enemy lines to the South Carolina coast and I have to see the tiger’s paw all over the place when I go to visit them.
Clemson is a good team, who has beaten the only other ranked team on their schedule so far and just lost to another good team in Miami. They will be coming out swinging to try and get the uneasy 3-3 tie between these two programs over their last six games to break in their favor. The Tar Heels need to be ready to match that energy, but nothing I’ve seen so far this season indicates that they will have any trouble doing so. I fully expect the team from Chapel Hill to grab these Tigers (by the toe, or otherwise) and hold on, even if they do start hollerin’.
The middle stop of this three-game road trip is in dangerous territory. The Tar Heels have an excellent opportunity to add more to an already-impressive resume, if they can snatch a win out of this Tiger pit without falling in.
Tomorrow’s gameday once again, which is always a great day to be a Tar Heel.