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Clemson Hosts #5 UNC Tar Heels

The Tigers get another shot at an elite opponent. A win would put them clearly on the right side of the bubble.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum - Clemson, SC

When: Saturday, March 2nd, 6 P.M. EST


North Carolina Tarheels

Current Record: 23-5

ACC Record: 13-2

Previous Game: 93-85 win over Syracuse

Head Coach: Roy “Droopy Dog” Williams

Projected Starting Lineup

F - #32 - Luke Maye - 6’8, 240 - Sr - 14.9 PPG, 10 RPG

F - #15 - Garrison Brooks - 6’9, 230 - So - 8.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG

G/F - #13 - Cameron Johnson - 6’8, 210 - Sr - 16.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG

SG - # 24 - Kenny Williams - 6’4, 185 - Sr - 8.5 PPG, 3.6 APG

PG - #2 - Coby White - 6’5, 185 - Fr - 15.9 PPG, 4.1 APG

Key Reserves

F - #5 - Nassir Little - 6’6, 220 - Fr - 9.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG

G - #0 - Seventh Woods - 6’2, 185 - Jr - 3.1 PPG, 2.4 APG

G - #4 - Brandon Robinson - 6’4, 170 - Jr - 3.4 PPG, 1.3 APG

Advanced Statistics Comparison

Kenpom Ranking

UNC - 5

Clemson - 31

Adjusted Tempo

UNC - 74.8 (5th highest tempo)

Clemson - 66.1 (259)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

UNC - 120.1 (7th)

Clemson - 108.7 (86)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

UNC - 91.7 (13th)

Clemson - 91.3 (11th)

Miscellaneous Stats

Offensive Rebounding Percentage

UNC - 35.2 (18th)

Clemson - 27.3 (209th)

Offensive 3-Point Percentage

UNC - 37.5 (53rd)

Clemson - 33.2 (236th)

Assists Per Field Goal Made

UNC - 61.9 (11th)

Clemson - 49.2 (260th)

Average Possession Length

UNC - 14.4 (4th)

Clemson - 17.7 (209th)


The only way Clemson wins this game is they can somehow control the tempo with their offense. That means taking each possession deep into the shot clock and figuring out a way to make shots. It’s really that simple.

Clemson’s turnover problems have been dumbfounding and if they continue today, UNC will blow the Tigers out of the gym. Turnovers (especially live ball turnovers) are death against UNC because they are one of the best teams in the nation at converting them into points.

Eli Thomas has the potential to work in the post against the undersized Tarheels. He’ll get his chance at Luke Maye, and if the Tigers are smart, they will pound the ball inside early and often and hope Maye gets into foul trouble before Eli. I’m not optimistic about that actually happening, but if the Tigers can somehow get an early whistle of two against Maye, this game becomes much more interesting.

Clemson is going to try and bleed as much clock as possible. That means Marquise Reed is going to have to pull out his best old man game and hit weird mid-range jumpers and pull ups consistently. North Carolina doesn’t have their normal cadre of freaky shot blockers this year, so there could be some opportunities to drive and score at the rim, but I think Reed getting hot from the mid-range is probably the Tigers best chance.

In theory, Aamir Simms could have a big game against Garrison Brooks, but I’ve grown weary of trying to predict what Aamir Simms will and won’t do on the basketball court during any given game. Sometimes he’s a beast, other teams I look at the box score and say, “wow, Aamir Simms played over 30 minutes today? I don’t remember seeing him on the court.” Let’s hope Aamir comes to play today.

Any shooting that David Skara and Shelton Mitchell can provide from the outside would be much appreciated. They’ll get chances late in the clock and need to hit a few to keep UNC from swarming under Reed.

Finally, Clyde Trapp and Hunter Tyson have to provide something for the Tigers on offense. Clemson thrives on low scoring rock fights, but UNC is going to score points. The Tigers have to at least get into the 70’s to have a shot, and some of those points are going to have to come off the bench.


North Carolina isn’t a complicated team. They rebound the ball, outlet the ball to their guards and run their primary break. If you stop that, they get into their secondary break, with shooters spotting up and looking for the kick out as trailers. If you stop that, they move into their half court sets and move the ball around the court with stunning efficiency.

This isn’t the Duke, “you can’t stop us off the dribble, so we’re not even going to try and pass the ball” offense. This UNC shares the ball and makes you defend everyone on the court. If any defender turns their brain off for a split second, North Carolina will embarrass him.

Cam Johnson, Luke Maye and Coby White is the 3 headed monster for UNC. Honestly, Clemson matches up well against those three players. You’ll see a Skara on Johnson, Eli and Simms on Maye and Mitchell on White.

The Mitchell and White match-up is particularly interesting because White thrives on using his superior height at the point guard position to dominate games. He can simply pull up and shoot over or drive to the rim and finish over most point guards. That won’t be the case against Mitchell. Let’s hope the seasoned vet has something for star freshman.

The Tigers have the defensive ability to cause the Tarheels some issues, as long as they get to play in the half court. I can’t stress this enough. Clemson has to control the tempo. If they keep UNC out of their transition game, they can frustrate them. Of course, every team that plays UNC goes into the game with this strategy, and it rarely works, but in theory, it’s sound strategy.

KenPom predicts this to be a close game and gives Clemson more of a chance than most people would give the Tigers.

KenPom: UNC 76 - Clemson 71 (66% confidence)

Drew: UNC 81 - Clemson 71