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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 06 Clemson at North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

by Sharon Thorsland

Well, I guess you could have seen it coming. North Carolina, fresh off a big win over their arch rival Duke, came out flat and never recovered on Tuesday, falling to Clemson 80-76 at home. It was just the second win ever in Chapel Hill for the Tigers, and the second loss in three games for the 3rd ranked Tar Heels. Now they’ll try to bounce back when they take on Miami in Coral Gables on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4:00 on WBT.

The Hurricanes (15-8, 6-6 ACC) were in the Final Four last season and were projected to finish second in the ACC in preseason voting. But this team looks nothing like last year’s group – they’re coming off an awful performance against Virginia that saw them score just 38 points, and have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Canes still have star players Norchad Omier, Nijel Pack and Wooga Poplar from last year’s team though, and they need a signature win to keep hope alive of making the big dance again. The Watsco Center is sold out and will likely be a raucous environment.

Pack and Poplar are elite guards combining for 28 points a game and are hot from behind the arc – Poplar is shooting over 48% from three. FSU transfer guard Matthew Cleveland adds 14 points and six rebounds a game, but Omier is the go-to guy. He leads the team in scoring (17.6ppg) and rebounding (9.8rpg). He’s just 6’7 though, and will face 6’11 Armando Bacot, who is a double-double machine and leads the ACC in rebounds. The Hurricanes and Heels are the top two defensive rebounding teams in the conference, so whoever wins the battle of the glass will certainly have an advantage.

The Tar Heels have one of the best defenses in the country and need to get it going again against the Hurricanes. They’re 16-1 when they hold teams to less than 80 points and 2-4 when they allow more. Getting Seth Trimble back would certainly help in that effort, but he’s a game time decision with an upper body injury.

UNC has won five of the last seven game against the Hurricanes, but lost their last trip to south Florida by 28 points. After losing to Georgia Tech and Clemson in the past two weeks, I can’t see UNC coming out flat again in this one – look for them to start a new winning streak. Go Tar Heels!