Caulton Tudor

Is time finally right for Clemson to win at UNC?

Posted January 22, 2014

ACC basketball scheduling is so irregular that all 15 coaches can cite at least one or two unfair situations without even having to dissect the entire slate.

But if there’s one coach who doesn’t have to dig around in order to find a silver lining, it’s Clemson’s Brad Brownell. Why?

No longer do the Tigers have to make an annual trip to UNC, a place where they’ve never won a game. When Brownell brings his team to the Smith Center for Sunday’s 6 p.m. game, one of the nation’s longest futility trips will stand at 56.

But that said, the Tigers’ timing finally could be spot-on. North Carolina (1-4 ACC, 11-7 overall) gradually is coming across as the most underachieving conference-play team of this college basketball season. That much became evident again in Monday’s 76-61 loss at Virginia.

The Tar Heels have deteriorated into a team with such errant shooting, casual defending, sloppy ball-handling and lack of focus that Roy Williams may be on the verge of having to overhaul everything about the program, including current personnel, future recruiting priorities and on-court strategies.

Virginia is not an exceptional team by any stretch of the word. But the Cavaliers, like Miami earlier, had no trouble whatsoever putting UNC’s players into self-destruct mode.

Here’s the scouting report on UNC at this point: “Just don’t get stupid, and they’ll fall apart and hand you a win.” 

Clemson (13-5, 4-2) looked perfectly terrible in Monday’s 76-43 loss to Pitt (17-2, 5-1).

But for most of the season, the Tigers have been decent on offense and slightly above average on defense. They’re capable of following the map to success against UNC – even in Chapel Hill.

Tigers almost won in ’82 – of all years

During most of the Chapel Hill drought, which began in 1926, Clemson was so hopelessly outmanned that beating the Heels at home was almost impossible regardless of either team’s execution.

Obviously the Tigers should have snapped the string in the 2001-02 season, when Carolina went 8-20 overall, 4-12 in the league and 6-9 in the Smith Center.

But as the Tiger luck would have, the ‘01-’02 Heels played their best game of the season when Clemson arrived. UNC’s 96-78 win on Feb. 27 was its last of the season, but looked a lot like the Heels’ 87-69 win at Clemson earlier in the schedule.

The Tigers probably should have won on Feb. 10, 2008, but the Heels rallied late and eventually won 103-93 in two overtimes.

One of the most surprising games in Chapel Hill was on Jan. 27, 1982.

En route to Dean Smith’s first NCAA title, Carolina was a heavy favorite over a Clemson team that was 2-5 in the conference. But Bill Foster’s Tigs led 35-33 at halftime and were up by 10 with less than nine minutes left as James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan all struggled against Clemson’s aggressive interior defense.

It took 21 points and 10 assists from Tar Heel playmaker Jimmy Black and 21 more points from Matt Doherty for UNC to finally win 77-72.

“The streak should have stopped today,” Foster said. “We have no one to blame but ourselves. We had ‘em, but we let ‘em get out of the bag.”

Rather than a remarkable escape, this Carolina team is more apt to just jump into the bag.


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  • pat6 Jan 27, 2014

    Caulton, thank you for the inspiring article. Just what the Tarheels needed.

    PAt N

  • sportznutV2.1 Jan 27, 2014


  • vt94hokies Jan 26, 2014

    Beat down. UNC was clicking tonight.

  • dpill Jan 26, 2014

    This may be the most important game of the season for North Carolina. If they lose tonight, the season is over.

  • garrett123 Jan 25, 2014

    "Virginia is not an exceptional team by any stretch of the word."

    This statement is wrong.

  • 879wins Jan 23, 2014

    View quoted thread

    State should have forfeited that game the other night against Duke.

  • 4tarheels Jan 23, 2014

    UNC needs to find the right combination for starting line-up, then they need to restrict it to about 8 players. The addition of Leslie McDonald has screwed up the chemistry. They may need to bench him entirely because he really doesn't add much to the team. His shooting is suspect at best, and his defense is non-existent.

  • Rerun Jan 22, 2014

    Two things to say about this article.
    1. Did you see Clemson play last night?
    2. Carolina has joined the ranks of the average teams that have to play hard to win. I like the balance in the league so far.

  • dongizzle132 Jan 22, 2014


  • modukev5saysbyebye Jan 22, 2014

    Swoff will never let that happen. Take it to the bank.




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