UNC Basketball: Tigers vs. Tar Heels game preview

The Tar Heels ended the year with a loss. Up next is another road game at Clemson. What do the Tigers bring to the table?

Ok that was not the best way to end the new year.

After two straight wins, the Basketball team decided to take a cue from the football team and lose the last game of 2016.

They won’t have a ton of time to regroup as they play again on Tuesday at Clemson.

What do the Tar Heels need to know about the Tigers?

Clemson Tigers

Dec 31, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers forward Donte Grantham (15) reacts after scoring a basket in the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Clemson defeated Wake 73-68. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach: Brad Brownell. Current Record: 283-174. Brownell is in his seventh season with the Tigers which is his third head coaching stop. He has taken all three schools he has coached to the NCAA tournament at least once.

Last Season: Last season the Tigers went 17-14 overall. They went 10-8 in the ACC which included early season wins over Duke, Louisville, and Miami, who were all ranked at the time. They ended up finishing seventh in the conference and lost their opening ACC tournament game to Georgia Tech. They did not play in any post season tournaments.

Best Former Player: Horrace Grant. Grant is a four-time NBA Champion. He won three of those championships with the Chicago Bulls playing next to Michael Jordan. The one-time All-Star was also a four-time NBA All-defensive team member. He finished his 17 year career with 12,996 points, 9,443 rebounds, and 2,575 assists.

This Season: Clemson this season is currently 11-2. They have also won nine straight games. In their latest game they went on a 15-0 run in the last four minutes to turn a ten point deficit into a five point win.

Key Players

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Josh Okogie (5) in action against North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) and guard Kenny Williams (24) at McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson: F Jaron Blossomgame

The forward decided to return for his senior year and leads the team in scoring. He also leads the team in total blocks and minutes played. His only weakness this season is from behind the arc. Blossomgame is shooting only 15.8 percent from behind the three point line this season after shooting 44.6 percent from there last season.

North Carolina: G Nate Britt

Nate Britt gets the call here for being one of the few bright spots against Georgia Tech. The senior guard scored 13 points and had five steals in 26 minutes of play against the Yellow Jackets. He also shot 3-4 from behind the arc.

This was a promising showing for a guy who was mired in a shooting slump. In his previous four games he was 7-27 from the field including 2-10 from three point range. Britt regaining some swagger will go a long way in firming up the Tar Heels back court until Theo Pinson returns.

Impact Freshmen

Nov 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Brandon Robinson (14) dunks over Tulane Green Wave guard Melvin Frazier (35) and forward Sammis Reyes (12) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson: F Elijah Thomas

Thomas did not play the first nine games of the season for the Tigers. Since getting playing time, the freshmen from Dallas, Texas is averaging nine points in 16 minutes of play. He is also shooting 15-20 from the floor in those four games. At 6 foot 9 he will be needed against a deep Carolina front court.

North Carolina: G Brandon Robinson

None of the UNC freshmen looked stellar in the game against Georgia Tech. Robinson gets the call here as he is key to the Tar Heels getting stops against guards until Theo Pinson returns.

The guard is getting more minutes than Seventh Woods and needs to do a better job taking advantage of them. He had shown flashes in his previous two games averaging 16 minutes and getting to the free throw line, where he went 6-7 from the charity stripe.

Three Questions

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Joel Berry II meets with teammates prior to the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Tar Heels re-establish the Post?

Three pointers are fun. However, UNC has always been an inside out team. Against Georgia Tech they were a three point launching disaster. They have to be strong in the post and develop from there.

It starts with the bigs getting baskets. The four man rotation had only 22 points on 9-21 shooting. If UNC is going to be dominate this year, it needs to get a lot more points from their litany of size in the post.

Can the Tigers keep the Heels off the glass?

The Tar Heels average over 45 rebounds a game good for second in the Nation. The Tigers average under 37 good for 189th. If Clemson can’t keep UNC off the glass, particularly on the offensive end, it will help Carolina improve on the 5-26 performance they put up from behind the arc against the Yellow Jackets.

Can the Tar Heels win on the road?

I asked this same question last preview and got a resounding no from the stands in Atlanta. With the loss the Tar Heels are now 0-2 in true road games this season. Carolina has shown to be resilient in neutral site games, but if they want a top seed, they will have to win a couple on the road in the ACC.

Prediction

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams talks to an official against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

If the game were in Chapel Hill, this would be the easiest pick of the season. The Tigers have never won at the Hill and I am not one to pick against tradition. However the game is in Clemson where they are 7-0 this season.

Final Score: 83-77 UNC over Clemson. Carolina has followed their two losses this season with two wins by an average of 44 points. Of course those two teams are a combined 12-15 on the season. Clemson keeps it close, but the Tar Heels avoid starting conference play 0-2 with a win in their first game of 2017.

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