Man Saturday was fun wasn’t it? Carolina completely controlled the game against the Blue Devils, served notice to the ACC that they are back, and made sure Armando Bacot had a memorable last game in Chapel Hill against Duke. Alas, the season will continue Tuesday when they take on Clemson in the Dean Dome.
The Tar Heels’ off date is pretty late this season — still two weeks away — and even though the Heels will play five of their last nine in Chapel Hill, with the NFL season now down the schedule dial turns to 11 as college basketball as a whole tries to take center stage for the next month. That means having short memories as Clemson, desperate for a win and revenge rolls into town Tuesday.
Enjoy the victory for one more day but here are three things to look for against the Tigers.
(Bump) it up to the tempo
A little (cleaner) Lizzo shout out here as Carolina showed just how they want to play from the jump against Duke Saturday night. The Tar Heels ran every chance they could, took care of the ball, and had Duke chasing the entire night.
The tempo wasn’t just because Carolina wanted to run, but it was a result of just outright stingy defense. They turned Duke over eleven times, and looked to take advantage each time. They also made sure to take advantage of any scant moment that the Blue Devils hung back after a made basket — either to celebrate of argue about the lack of whistles — which led to easy buckets.
It’s worth pointing this out because the tempo was not like this during the first meeting against the Tigers. Clemson took care of the ball — committing only five turnovers — and it was mostly a slog where the Tar Heels managed to pull away at the end of the second half. Will Carolina be able to spend Clemson up or will Clemson be able to dictate tempo again?
Three point shot defense
In round one, the Tar Heels showed that their three-point defense was going to be a calling card for at least this part of the season when the Tigers shot a woeful 1-18 from behind the arc. It’s not like Carolina was much better, but the Tigers performance was well below their season 35% average. Especially impressive was PJ Hall going 0-5 behind the arc when he’s a 42.3% shooter.
You have to think there’ll be at least a little regression in the defense there, as the Tigers have shot a little closer to their average the last few games. But Clemson also has to worry about the fact that the Tar Heels also shot well below their averages against them, and now they have the home court.
It’s easy to forget because it was a win and most of us took the Marge Simpson “now let us never speak of this again” approach, but no Tar Heel scored more than 14 points in the first game. RJ Davis only shot 5-13 overall, and 2-5 from three. Since that game the Tar Heels have just improved in just about every other facet of the game, and their three point defense is still under 30% for the season. Will Clemson make more behind the arc? If so, the Tigers might have a shot at their second ever win in Chapel Hill.
The Duke Hangover
Win or lose you know this quick turnaround is going to be tough for the Tar Heels. You expend a ton of energy against your rival at home, and then you almost have to immediately forget it to host possibly the ACC’s only other NCAA Tournament representative in a game they desperately need to make their position better.
Harrison Ingram had the game of his life, Armando Bacot reminded everyone why he was a preseason All-American, and the team was feeling good to the point where Cormac Ryan joined the crowd on Franklin Street to celebrate the win. It had a “last game of the regular season win” vibe to it, except the Tar Heels have nine games to go and have three of their next four on the road.
The game should show this team that they are meant for something more than just ACC success, and the next step in that success is putting that win behind them and taking care of business the rest of the way. With a two game lead on the rest of the ACC and a chance to finally win in Charlottesville to put a hammer lock on the league, can this team use Saturday as momentum for the rest of the way or will they have a let down that brings the rest of the league closer to them?