Is time finally right for Clemson to win at UNC?
Posted January 22
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.