CLEMSON, SC -- Some thought this day would never come.
Some would say it's like a breath of fresh air. Others will shed a tear.
North Carolina is on the verge of having to accept an invitation to the
National Invitational Tournament. There are some that say some things never
change. Those people are worried about the events in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina is 13-9 overall and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference
heading into Sunday's game at Littlejohn Coliseum against Clemson (8-13,
2-6). If Clemson coach Larry Shyatt thinks he is under pressure to turn
things around at Clemson, all he has to do is look down the floor at North
Carolina coach Bill Guthridge.
Guthridge took over for Dean Smith two years ago and took his first team to
the Final Four. He was named national coach of the year. Well, as they say,
the honeymoon is over. Even those around Chapel Hill are starting to think
the day is quickly approaching when North Carolina's streak of NCAA
tournament appearances and 20-win seasons could be over.
"Our backs are against the wall," said North Carolina sophomore Jason Capel
after an overtime loss to Duke on Thursday night. "Now, we'll see how we
react." North Carolina has been to the NCAA tournament 25 straight years and has won
20 games for 28 straight years.
The Tar Heels started the season with a 3-0 record and a championship in the
Maui Invitational. After that, confusion set it. North Carolina had tried a
pressure defense in order to create more points in ways other than its
halfcourt offense. That idea was scrapped in early January when it became
obvious that North Carolina didn't have the depth to administer the defense.
"We're not the team we though we'd be," said sophomore Kris Lang.
Neither is Clemson, but the two teams are looking at life from different
perspectives now. Clemson is tied for last in the ACC with Georgia Tech, but
the Tigers are healthier than they have been all season, both mentally and
Will Solomon isn't the only source of Clemson's points anymore. Adrius
Jurkunas had a career-high 21 points against Georgia Tech while Dustin
Braddick also had a career high 14 points. Freshman Ray Henderson is also
showing promise after he scored six in 16 minutes.
"I'm certain when you have success on the scoreboard, there's a tomorrow,"
For Shyatt, there's been locker room talk about where Clemson can go in the
ACC standings with some wins in the second half of the conference season.
"It's hard as an athlete to look beyond the game," he said. "It's our job to
make sure they can look beyond. If we do take care of business, you should
be reaching for what's above us."
Right now, North Carolina is just two games ahead of Clemson in the
"We're still North Carolina," said Lang. "We still have that pride and
fight. I still think we're going to do enough to get into the NCAA and make
something good out of this season."
REMINDER: Tipoff will be 1:30PM not 4:00PM as listed on tickets.