UNC Basketball vs Clemson: Preview, game info, prediction and more

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches on against the Yale Bulldogs during their game at Dean Smith Center on December 30, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches on against the Yale Bulldogs during their game at Dean Smith Center on December 30, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

UNC basketball hopes to end current losing skid, maintain home winning streak on Saturday against Clemson

59-0. Fifty-nine and oh.

That’s the Tar Heels’ home winning streak against the Clemson Tigers; an NCAA record dating back to 1926. There have been occasions when the Tigers got close, but never have they walked away from the Dean Smith Center — or Carmichael Arena before it — with a victory.

That record is in jeopardy on Saturday evening when the Tar Heels play host to the Tigers in a battle of last-place Atlantic Coast Conference teams. North Carolina has struggled to score well this season. They’ve struggled with just about everything else, too. And the Tigers haven’t been any better. The two teams have a combined record of 15-14, and 2-6 in conference play.

Sadly, the only thing at stake in this game might be the Tar Heels’ home winning streak. Neither team is likely to make a postseason tournament that anyone really cares about. And neither is likely to do any real damage in the ACC down the stretch. That might sound bad, but one look at the numbers this season — or a simple eye test — will pretty much confirm that assertion.

Both teams lack star-power, experience and just about every other essential facet of a competent college basketball program. Although Clemson has its ups and downs, it’s a rare sight to see North Carolina struggling in such a way. It obviously hurt the Tar Heels when star freshman point guard Cole Anthony went down with injury, but their problems began way before that. They’ve battled injuries and inconsistency throughout the first three months of the season, and they lack the typical star-power that we’ve seen in Chapel Hill over the past 17 years.

To say that this game could be an ugly one is an understatement.

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Key to the game

Neither the Tar Heels nor the Tigers score the basketball well. They don’t share it well either. North Carolina is 235th in the nation in scoring with a 70.5 point-per-game average. Clemson is even worse, tied for 294th in the country with just 68 points per game. The Tar Heels’ 13.8 assists per game rank 169th in college hoops, while the Tigers 12.9 assists put them at 248th.

The Tar Heels do rebound the ball well, and rank fifth in the nation in that category with just under 44 boards a contest. The Tigers, on the other hand, pull down just 33.9 rebounds per game, and that ranks 339th in the country. Clemson’s defense, however, is one of the better units in the ACC, and ranks 52nd in the nation in points allowed with less than 63 per game. North Carolina is allowing better than 70 points per game, which ranks 215th in college basketball.

Perhaps, it’s in one of those last couple of categories that decides Saturday’s game between two of the ACC’s cellar dwellers. If the Tar Heels can play fair defense, and utilize their advantage on the glass, they might be able to preserve their embarrassingly long home win streak against the Tigers. If the Tigers can play solid defense against a North Carolina team struggling to shoot the ball well on open gym night, they might walk away with a 1-59 record in Chapel Hill.

Player to watch

Garrison Brooks has been nothing short of sensational over the past month of the season; a stretch that’s seen the Tar Heels lose four of six games in fairly disappointing fashion. Brooks, though, has been anything but disappointing, putting together the best stretch of basketball we’ve seen from him during his three seasons at North Carolina.

Brooks is averaging 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game since a low-scoring loss to the Virginia Cavaliers on December 8. He’s shooting an outstanding 59 percent from the floor in that time, 64 percent from the free throw line — including a 17-for-18 performance from the charity stripe against Georgia Tech last Saturday — and hit the first three-pointer of his career in a loss to Pittsburgh.

He’s played no less than 31 minutes in any of those six games, averaging a team-best 34.6 minutes per contest. He’s been the lone bright spot for the Tar Heels during that 2-4 stretch. It’ll likely take another supreme effort from Brooks to keep the Tar Heels in the game against a hungry Clemson program looking to earn its first ever win in Chapel Hill.

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What you need to know

What? Clemson 7-7 (1-3 in ACC) @ North Carolina 8-7 (1-3 in ACC)
When? Saturday, January 11, 4:30 p.m. EST
Where? Dean Smith Center – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-time series? UNC leads 133-21
Last meeting? UNC won 81-79 at Clemson on 3/2/19
Line? UNC -4.5
Prediction? UNC 72, Clemson 66