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UNC heads to Clemson for a 7PM showdown on ESPN. Clemson has lost 4 straight in the series and have won just 20 times in 146 tries all-time against the Heels. However, Clemson does boast 13 wins in 40 tries at Littlejohn, which considering their all-time record, isn't too bad.
UNC has had a down year by their standards. It's not just their 19-8 record that is uncharacteristic, but it's the fact that they been blown out in so many of their losses. UNC wasn't competitive against Butler, Indiana, Texas, NC State, and Miami. Unfortunately for Clemson, they come to town playing their best basketball of the season. Roy Williams, who is usually as stubborn as a mule when it comes to lineup changes, made a change to a 4 guard lineup a few weeks back when the Heels visited Duke. The move seems to have paid off. Roy was getting absolutely nothing out of Joel James and Desmond Hubert at the 5, so he moved James Michael McAdoo to the 5 and inserted SG/SF P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup (where he should've been all year). Since the loss at Duke, which was a close game, they've reeled off 3 straight, including wins over UVA and NC State.
P.J. Hairston was averaging around 12 ppg before being inserted into the starting lineup. Since entering the starting lineup he's averaging 18 ppg. 60% of his field goal attempts come from 3-point range, where he makes 38% of them. Because of the physical nature of both he and Reggie Bullock, they are able to get away with a smaller lineup. Both guys are big for shooting guards anyway, but they also rebound really well for their size.
Speaking of Reggie Bullock, he's been UNC's most consistent player all year. He averages 14 ppg and shoots 44% from 3-point range. It's tough to chase him off the 3-point line because he has a quick release and uses his height to shoot over smaller defenders. Clemson needs to go over all screens and do their best to force him and Hairston to put the ball on the floor.
James Michael McAdoo is UNC's leading scorer and rebounder, but I find his stats to be deceiving. He's not a bad player by any means, but he isn't the player many thought he'd be this year. While he does rebound it well, he struggles at times on the offensive end of the court. The game hasn't slowed down for him yet. His mind and his body are not moving at the same speed. He rushes his shots, has shoddy footwork, and turns the ball over a ton. I do believe that Booker's combination of strength and athleticism can frustrate JMM.
Matchups are going to be big in this one. UNC could be in a bit of trouble playing against a bigger team that has post up threats at both their 4 and 5 positions. Since the paint seems to be Jennings' kyptonite, this matchup appears to set up well for UNC. On the other end of the court, Jennings will have his hands full chasing the quicker, stronger Hairston all over the court through multiple screens.
Tempo is also going to be big. UNC is one of the fastest paced teams in the country, while Clemson is one of the slowest. Clemson would love to ugly-up this game as much as possible, just as they did against Miami. UNC wants to get out and run. Freshman PG Marcus Paige is much better in transition than he is running a halfcourt offense at this point. JMM is also at his best in the open floor and Bullock and Hairston both do a good job of running to the 3-point line in transition. A halfcourt game with fewer possessions is advantageous for the less talented Tigers.
This isn' close to the most talented UNC team Clemson has faced over the years. I really like Hairston and Bullock, but other than that I'm not overly impressed. Paige can be a liability at times for UNC and I think that Rod Hall is the type of defender that can give him a long night. Dexter Strickland is a SG that can't shoot. I've already discussed McAdoo's inconsistencies. The fact is that Clemson's 3 home ACC losses have come by a combined 8 points. With this being a home game in front of a sellout crowd on national television, I think Clemson give UNC all they can handle. In the end I think UNC will find a way to win this game, but it'll come down to the wire once again. I wouldn't be at all shocked to see Clemson pull off the upset here.