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Heel Tough Blog: Clemson Preview


AP

When the Tar Heels take the court tomorrow against #16 Clemson, it will mark the sixth-ranked team that Carolina has played so far this season, despite the season being just over two months old. Carolina enters with a 10-3 record, is ranked #8 in the country, and is coming off a 70-57 win at Pittsburgh earlier in the week, to secure the first road win of the year. Carolina is 2-0 in league play so far and is looking not only for a 3-0 start but back-to-back wins away from Chapel Hill. 


Brad Brownell has been in Clemson for more than a decade and has established a respectable program inside the ACC. This year’s squad, which is 11-2, (1-1), might be the best he’s ever had. The Tigers may have lost at Miami on Wednesday night, but this Clemson team is going to pose another challenge for UNC. P.J. Hall is as good a player in the conference, and he’s one of Clemson’s three double-digit scorers, as he’s averaging over 20 points per game. Joe Girard III and Chase Hunter are the other two players that average more than 10 points per game, for a team that averages over 80 points per game. As you can imagine, with their offensive explosiveness, Clemson is an explosive perimeter shooting team, as they shoot 39% from behind the arc as a team. They have six players on their roster that shoot 38% or better from behind the arc, meaning Carolina is going to guard the perimeter as well as they have all season long. 


This is the 20th time the two schools have met as ranked opponents, and this one feels as important as any prior meeting, as the winner may establish themselves as the team to beat in the ACC. Here’s how Carolina can earn maybe their most impressive win of the season:


  1. Win the Race to 80: In their losses to Kentucky and UConn, the opponent reached the 80-point plateau before Carolina did, and it’s not a coincidence that Carolina came up short. If that happens tomorrow, there’s a very good chance that Carolina will come up short. This isn’t a vintage Clemson team on the defensive end of the court, as they’ve opened up the way they play on offense. On Wednesday night, Miami scored 60 points in the second half, on their way to a 95-82 win over Clemson, so the Tigers will look for a better effort in this game. At this point, it’s fair to expect production from R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot, but they need more scoring production from Cormac Ryan and Harrison Ingram to ensure they get to 80 first. 

  2. Contain P.J. Hall: Just like Clemson is going to limit R.J. Davis, Carolina needs to limit the damage of P.J. Hall. He’s averaging over 20 points per game, shooting 56% from the field and 38% from behind the arc. On Tuesday night, Carolina was able to limit Pittsburgh’s best player, Blake Hinson to 11 points on 4-16 shooting. They were able to limit his production because Hubert Davis used multiple defenders on him. They’ll need to use that same strategy against P.J. Hall, starting with Harrison Ingram, and using Seth Trimble and Jae’Lyn Withers off the bench. 

  3. Win the Rebounding Battle: Believe it or not, Carolina enters this game as the better rebounding team from a statistical standpoint. Carolina outrebounded Pittsburgh on Tuesday night 51-41, which was impressive considering that the Panthers are the best rebounding team in the league. What allowed Carolina to win the rebounding margin, was that four different players grabbed at least 6 rebounds, led by Harrison Ingram, and his 15 rebounds. Clemson doesn’t have the size and the length that the Panthers have, but Carolina needs to bring the same level of commitment that they brought the other night. 


Series History: 

  • Carolina is 135-23 all-time against Clemson, including being 41-18 on the road, and 30-15 in Littlejohn. This is the 20th matchup between the two schools while ranked, and Carolina is 16-3 when the two teams are ranked. 


KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 11th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.5 (11th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.0 (27th)

  • Clemson - 23rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.3 (17th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.7 (50th)


NET: 

  • North Carolina - 12th

  • Clemson - 18th


TV Info: Tomorrow’s game will tip at 12 PM on ESPN2. 


The Four Corners Podcast: 





 


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