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UNC Game Preview

Where: Dean Smith Center - Chapel Hill, North Carolina           

When:  1/18 @ 8:00PM

TV: Raycom

Line: Kenpom has UNC by 8 with an 81% chance of winning


Chapel Hill hasn’t been friendly to Clemson basketball.  The Tigers enter Tuesday’s contest sporting a horrendous 54 game losing streak in Chapel Hill.   This year is as good as any to break that streak.  We are playing good basketball right now, entering the game with an 8 game winning streak.  One of these streaks will come to an end on Tuesday.

UNC has improved from last year’s disastrous season.  But they are still very vulnerable and wildly inconsistent.  If we are going to get the monkey off our back, this is the time to do it.


UNC is led by their big men, Tyler Zeller (14.6 PPG) and John Henson (10.4 PPG).  When UNC runs their offense through these guys, they are very tough to beat.  Both guys shoot 50% or better from the field.  Zeller has developed a go to jump hook over his left shoulder.  He likes to catch and shoot without putting the ball on the ground, so Grant and Booker need to play him on that shoulder and force him to shoot his more awkward looking lefty jump hook. Henson, on the other hand, prefers a left-handed jump hook.  It’s almost impossible to guard.  The key is to muscle him away from the basket and force him to throw up the hook from 8-10 feet .  He is also very nimble around the basket and uses his wiry frame to spin off defenders on drop steps.  Both guys rebound and defend well. Henson is extremely good at blocking shots.

Joining Zeller and Henson in the front court is heralded freshman Harrison Barnes.  Barnes has taken a lot of criticism for his play so far this year, after being named a pre-season 1st Team All-American.  I believe the criticism has affected his play, as he looks hesitant in his movements and decision-making.  He is going to be a very good player one day, but right now he is struggling.  He doesn’t have an explosive first step and his ball handling is suspect.  Tanner Smith needs to get in his shorts and force him to put the ball on the floor and drive into traffic.  If you play off of him he can knock down jumpers.  We don’t want to allow him to find his confidence by hitting a couple shots.

The biggest topic of conversation in Chapel Hill is the point guard position.  Larry Drew is the incumbent, but the junior PG has not performed up to expectations.  He is shooting 37% from the field and 21% from 3-point land.  He does sport a decent assist to turnover ratio of 1.8:1, but commits some Kyle Parker-esque turnovers that make you wonder what he was thinking.  To me, it’s obvious that Freshman Kendall Marshall should be the starter.   Kendall Marshall is a pass-first point guard that really makes their offense go.  He does a great job of keeping his head up and finding the open man.  He gets the ball to guys in a position where they are comfortable, which sounds simple, but is one of those things that separate good point guards from great ones.  Marshall is shooting 50% from the field and 46% from the 3-point line.  He also owns a fantastic 3:1 assist to turnover ratio.  As long as Roy Williams continues to value a veteran PG over the more productive freshman, UNC will remain vulnerable to upsets.  Just last game against Virginia Tech, Drew had a plus/minus of -15, while Marshall’s plus/minus was +18. 

The keys to victory:

  • Take away Zeller’s jump hook
  • Muscle Henson around
  • Force Barnes to put the ball on the floor
  • Limit second chance points
  • Don’t miss a 3-pointer in the second half

Lets finally end this losing streak!