The match-ups were favorable. North Carolina was turnover prone, which should have played into the hands of Clemson’s defensive pressure. The Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers. Everything was in place for Clemson to win on Saturday. One thing that did not go in the Tigers favor was “the streak”.
The Tigers have now lost 52 straight in Chapel Hill, and it showed in the first five minutes of the game.
The streak was clearly a factor in the game’s opening minutes. The North Carolina player’s came out firing, so they would not be the team to lose at home to Clemson, and Clemson came out playing as a team under tremendous amounts of pressure. North Carolina jumped up 10-0, and outscored Clemson in transition 18-0 in the first half. Clemson would never get closer than seven points after the game’s opening minutes.
So now, the question remains will it ever happen?
Coming into Saturday’s game, I was a firm believer the streak was coming to an end. Match-ups are just as important in basketball as they are in football, and the match-ups clearly favored Clemson. The Tigers guards should have been able to easily penetrate the UNC defense without a dominant shot blocker to worry about. However, it did not happen.
The Tigers’ offense was stagnant. The movement on offense became to horizontal, and no player looked confident enough to attack the basket. Clemson had too many turnovers at the top of the key, which led to easy transition points for North Carolina.
So if not match-ups what will it take?
Some teams have a let down, and the occasional upset happens. In this case, that is not likely to happen. The streak is as much a factor with North Carolina as it is with Clemson. No one wearing the baby blue wants to have that asterisk by their name in the media guide. The desire to keep the streak alive was obvious Saturday.
The bad news is this may have been Clemson’s last chance for awhile. The Tigers will not travel to Chapel Hill in 2007, and Roy Williams is reloading for another National Championship run with his 2006 recruiting class. This is bad news, because it takes away the one way I see Clemson winning in Chapel Hill.
Clemson must be head and shoulders better than North Carolina to win in Chapel Hill.
Yesterday, the two teams were even talent wise, and Clemson lost by fifteen points. It is not necessarily a stretch to say on a neutral floor, Clemson could beat North Carolina. In Chapel Hill, Clemson struggled to stay on the floor with the Tar Heels. Yes, it sounds simple, if Clemson is better they will win, but when you break it down, it is not that easy.
Clemson will not win in Chapel Hill, if they have a slight advantage. Clemson will have to be better in every facet of the game by a decisive margin. Now, the good news is Oliver Purnell has the program on the right track.
Purnell has brought Clemson out of purgatory, and he has team playing on a competitive level, despite several unexpected setbacks. Clemson will likely surpass Brown in the NCAA record books, but the promise is there with Purnell at the helm that one day the Tigers could be victorious in Chapel Hill.