UNC Basketball Preparing to Visit Tigers For Top-25 Matchup

The UNC Basketball program will continue their road stretch for the beginning of 2024 as they get ready to travel to Clemson for a top-25 matchup.

Charleston Southern v North Carolina
Charleston Southern v North Carolina / Ryan Hunt/GettyImages

The UNC Basketball program didn't get a favorable start to 2024 with the scheduling from the Atlantic Coast Conference by any means, but that doesn't mean the Tar Heels are going to complain about it. Opening the New Year with three consecutive road games at Pittsburgh, at Clemson and at NC State is tough, but this year's team is up for the challenge.

They proved that they came out with a hard fought 13-point victory on Tuesday night over the Panthers while picking up a quad-one win in the process and moving to 2-0 in ACC play. After getting to enjoy that win, it's time to move on to the next challenge in this three-game road stretch, and that's traveling to Littlejohn Coliseum to face No. 16 Clemson.

432. ESPN2. Saturday, Jan 6th. 11-2. . 12:00 PM. 10-3. 441. UNC BB vs Clemson

The Tigers are coming off a 95-82 loss at Miami on Wednesday night in a game which the Hurricanes didn't register a single bench point. Clemson placed five guys in double figures, but so did Miami, including three players with 23 or more points.

As ridiculous as the NET can be at times, it is one of the key metrics in determining a team's NCAA Tournament resume, and the 2023-24 UNC Basketball team has a great opportunity to add to their already impressive resume with another quad-one opportunity awaiting on Saturday afternoon.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

This may not surprise you, but defense will be crucial in this one. The Tigers average 82.2 points per game, and through the first 13 games of the season are averaging 39% from beyond the arc. In their two losses, Memphis and Miami, Clemson shot below their average from three-point range with 30.4% and 36.7% respectively.

The Tigers average attempting 24.8 three-pointers per game. Limiting their opportunities from beyond the arc and defending so they have to take difficult and contested shots will be critical to North Carolina having success on Saturday.

Clemson also only averages getting to the free throw line 16 times per game. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels get to the foul line 26.2 times per game. That is an extra 10 opportunities to pick up more points for North Carolina. Keeping Clemson off the foul line and attacking the rim so that the Tar Heels get there as much as possible could be a key turning point on Saturday.

Something to Watch For

The matchup between PJ Hall and Armando Bacot will be an interesting one. North Carolina has shown they are a versatile team who is willing to switch at every position defensively - the ability to have anyone from Bacot to Cormac Ryan guard Hall could be beneficial to the Tar Heels.

However, on the flip side, Clemson may not have that same luxury. Hall will likely be the primary defender on Bacot. In last year's meeting, Bacot was 8-11 from the field while scoring 19 points and bringing in 11 rebounds, mostly against Hall.

While Bacot has had struggles at times this season, he is still averaging a double-double for North Carolina, and this could be a breakout game for the fifth-year big man. If it is, the Tar Heels would appear to have a massive advantage in opening up the floor for everyone else, mainly RJ Davis.

Something else to watch will be Harrison Ingram as he comes off his worst offensive performance as a Tar Heel, shooting just 2-14 against the Panthers on Tuesday night. Ingram addressed that he has been dealing with a tape job on his wrist, and while he says it isn't to blame for the struggles, it could be something to watch on Saturday afternoon.

Last Meeting

The UNC Basketball program and Clemson Tigers have a long history of matchups, including the famous drought of the Tigers not winning a game in Chapel Hill through 59 attempts. That streak ended in January of 2020 with a 79-76 overtime victory for the Tigers.

Clemson and North Carolina have only played once in each season since 2017-18, when they had a home-and-home series. Last year, the Tigers visited the Dean Smith Center for the first time since that victory in 2020, and the Tar Heels were victorious, 91-71.

Three Tar Heels scored in double-figures, led by Caleb Love with 23 points on an impressive 7-12 shooting night and 6-9 from beyond the arc. Armando Bacot pulled in a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while RJ Davis added 17 points.

Clemson had three double-figure scorers of their own, with PJ Hall leading the charge with 18 points on 7-13 shooting.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 7.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 11.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.3 apg
No. 4 RJ Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 21.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.6 apg
No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.2 apg
No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 13.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 apg

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