If you follow UNC basketball you know that tonight’s game at the Dean Dome between North Carolina (11-7 & 1-4 in ACC) and Clemson (13-5 & 4-2 in ACC) carries a pretty big streak by the Tar Heels, who have never lost to the Tigers in Chapel Hill. But the reality is that this game is a lot more important to Carolina for this season then for the 56 game winning streak. A loss tonight would do a lot more damage than stopping a streak, no matter how long.
In order for this to happen head coach Roy Williams‘ squad is going to have to dig deep, especially on the offensive side, as Clemson is one of the best defensive minded programs in the country holding opponents to 37.2% shooting and 26.3% shooting from long range (both fourth in the nation). UNC, who struggles when facing slow tempo and well coached defensive teams, is going to have to play very well and not let the opponents dictate to them the game type if they want to win this match up.
Fortunately, while Clemson is as good as it gets when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, they are nowhere near that on the offensive side, and Carolina needs to use that to their advantage, turning turnovers or bad shots into transition points, something that has been the bread and butter of the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels will also have to make their free throw shots, which won’t be many, but might just be the difference between a win and a loss tonight.
One thing that the UNC fan base will be watching is what line up the head man will employ tonight, tip off being at 6:00 p.m. EST (ESPNU), against Clemson. Will sophomore center Joel James be back in the five slot? Will senior shooting guard Leslie McDonald be once again in the starting five, as he has been the last two games? Speaking of the senior, most people I have talked to, or read their posts on forums, do not like the insert of McDonald, saying he has made the offense go backwards since he has been back. I disagree, as the team needs more than just sophomore shooting guard Marcus Paige as a threat from beyond the arc. While the shooting guard might not be doing as well as a lot of people thought, there are many that think freshman center Kennedy Meeks is doing better than expected and should see more and more playing time. On the other hand, when the young man started he did not have his best performances of the season.
In the end, like it or not, many streaks in sports are way over rated, but for now, when it comes to Clemson playing in Chapel Hill they have never won, not even during the 2001-02 season, when UNC also began the ACC slate at 1 and 4. If the game stays close, whether or not the visiting squad is the better one, that 56 game streak is going to come crawling into their minds, and that might just be something that can not overcome.
“We’ve been continuing to work on everything,” Williams said. “There’s not one thing we’re doing that I’m satisfied with. … There is no phase of the game that we haven’t continued to work on from a technical aspect.”
Last time North Carolina had a decent stretch of time off they defeated Boston College for their only conference win so far this season. With almost a week off since their last game UNC should be ready to play this game against Clemson, not for their streak, but for the fact that a loss could send the Heels towards the NIT. The Vegas insiders have the Tar Heels as a 7.5 points favorite, and I think in the end this game will go UNC’s way, by the final of 72 to 67, not covering the spread, but keeping the “0 for” streak going.