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Clemson Basketball: UNC Preview

The Tigers get a daunting rematch.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson 14-7 (4-6) at North Carolina 18-4 (10-1)

When: Tuesday, 7 PM
Location: Dean Smith Center - Chapel Hill, NC
TV: ESPN

Another heartbreaking one-possession loss to an ACC opponent is in the books, this time to the surging Virginia Cavaliers. After squandering that game away, Clemson is now 4-6 in ACC play, with none other than the ACC’s first-place Tar Heels up next on the schedule.

No rest for the weary.

Clemson will travel to Dean Smith Center seeking their second-ever road win in a series that UNC has largely dominated. The task doesn’t look any easier this time around, as the high-flying Tar Heels lead the ACC in various offensive categories and are 11-1 over their last 12 games, their only loss being a defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech (who also upset Clemson).

Carolina’s offense starts with RJ Davis. Currently averaging an ACC-best 21.3 PPG, Davis is a do-it-all guard who has torn through conference play with only one sub-15 point performance - that game being none other than UNC’s first meeting this season with Clemson, a 65-55 victory.

Armando Bacot will also no doubt be a problem for Clemson’s rebounding - he gathered 16 rebounds in his first matchup with the Tigers in January and will look to replicate that performance to maintain his position as the leading ACC rebounder.

Prior to its first showdown with UNC, Clemson was sitting at 11-2 with several big non-conference resume wins bolstering their red-hot start. Exactly one month later, UNC is continuing to dominate the conference while Clemson has slid to a measly 11th place in the ACC.

Clemson’s season feels like the same old story we’ve so often been shown as Tiger basketball fans. A promising roster, several convincing wins, and a mid-season collapse that spirals into mediocrity. There is still plenty of time to right the ship and salvage a strong NCAA tournament seed, but Brownell’s squad is starting to slip into a grey area even with its impressive early resume.

PJ Hall has been the rock for this team all year and must continue to lead a struggling offense in a tough road environment. Someone else must step up in a meaningful way, or else UNC will be able to run away with this one easily. Can Girard hit the critical threes late in crunch time? Can Schiefflin consistently win the rebounding battle against Bacot?

It will take a monumental effort from everyone in a Tiger uniform to pull off what would be their biggest win of the year by far, and I’m just not confident I see that happening today. A victory could change the current direction of this team and propel them to a top-25 finish, but another loss may spell the same old ending for Brownell’s group. For that reason, this game is especially pivotal. Unfortunately, KenPom only gives Clemson a 19% chance to win in Chapel Hill.