Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
When: Sunday, January 6th, 7:30 PM
Records: UNC 14-0, 0-0 ACC; Clemson 12-1, 0-0 ACC
Let me just say that I hate going to Littlejohn ranked #1. And it is more than the loss in 2001 that ended the 18 game winning steak and basically sent UNC into the dark ages of the Matt Doherty era. It is a tough place to play and I do not have a great feeling going down there because you have a reached a point in the season where a loss would not be surprising.
Now considering things that actually influence the game itself, this is, on paper, the stiffest challenge UNC has seen this season. Clemson pressures the basketball which is something Ty Lawson has not seen this season. The Tigers rebound well and run fast break extremely well which are also things UNC has not seen yet. This is a tough matchup in every respect since Clemson also shoots the ball well on both the perimeter and in the paint.
Bearing all that in mind, it is important to remember UNC will be facing young guards who will have their share of problems handling Lawson. Having Quentin Thomas available could be a huge development assuming he does not come in with erratic play. Not having Alex Stepheson is worrisome because of the rebounding factor and if Mike Copeland can step up to grab a few boards so much the better. It is hard not to count on Tyler Hansbrough for a huge night any time UNC plays. Since this will most likely be an up and down affair with the possibility of a plethora of fouls, a usual occurrence in the UNC-Clemson game depth becomes a key issue. Both teams make generous use of their bench but one has to believe that Danny Green is once more the X factor giving UNC a quality option off the bench.
All in all I expect an all out war and my confidence in a win is probably as low as it has been all season. Still I think this would be a huge win and a validation for those who still think UNC is not all that.
UNC 92 Clemson 85