Sunday, December 30, 2007

ACC game of the week (12/30 - 1/6) - #20 Clemson vs. #1 North Carolina (1/6)

ACC ball is starting to pick up and there were a few big games to choose from this week. Virginia at Xavier should be a great game to watch as should #3 Kansas at Boston College. After looking at the schedule though it be hard to say that either of those games matter more than Clemson at UNC next Sunday. The Tigers have won 11 of 12 games this year with their only loss coming against Ole Miss a little over a week ago. Coach Oliver Purnell has a deep squad this season as Clemson has 4 guys averaging over 10 points a game and 9 guys getting over 15 minutes a night. Maybe having so many players giving them good minutes can help them compete with the All-Americans on the other team. Carolina has won all 12 games they've played this season and have won their last two by a margin of 35 and 36 respectively. As expected, the Tar Heels seem to be playing the best ball of all the ACC teams going into Conference play. This should be a competitive game as Clemson wants to make people forget about last years late season breakdown and UNC is looking to go wire to wire.

Backcourt - Carolina's Tywon Lawson is one of the top 5 point guards in the country and he'll definitely be the best one on the floor next Sunday. Clemson's freshman point guard Demontez Stitt is having a decent year for a true freshman and dropped 15 on Samford yesterday. This should give him more confidence going into this game. It also helps Stitt to have senior guard Cliff Hammond and 6'5 junior K.C. Booker on the wings. Rivers is averaging over 16 a night (team best) and a little over 7 rebounds as well. K.C. is the only guard in the conference ranked in the top 10 in rebounding. Clemson should stay in this game as long as they get him going. While the Tigers' guards have been playing well Lawson's speed alone should give the Tar Heels an advantage in this matchup. We've already went on about how great Ellington, Ginyard, and Green have played and their size should give the shorter Clemson guard's problems. It bodes well for you when your point guard is in the top 5 assist leaders in the conference and your your two guard is in the top 5 in scoring. I'd go with Carolina.

Frontcourt - While Clemson has several talented low post players the Tar Heels have Player of the year candidate Tyler Hansbrough. He leads the conference in scoring (22 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg), and free throws made (93). In fact, Tyler is hittin' more free throws than UVA's Sean Singletary (number 2 in free throws made) has shot. While Hansbrough might be tough to handle for one player, Clemson has at least three post players to throw at him. Led by James Mays Clemson's front court has bullied most of their opponents. Mays goes 6'9 230lbs. and considered the NBA for a bit this past summer. His biggest asset is his athleticism as he can do things like this:

To go along with Mays the Tigers have 6'7 240lbs sophomore Trevor Booker. Booker is 3rd in the conference in rebounds per game (9.3) while shooting 60% from the field this season. The matchup inside is the one opportunity that Clemson has to win this game. If they can keep Hansbrough in check they can keep the game close and have a shot to win at the end. Tyler doesn't have too many bad games though and for that reason I like Carolina here as well.

While this should be a great game there's no reason to think that Carolina won't go on a few of those classic runs and keep Clemson at least 8 to 10 points away throughout the game. The Tiger's best chance is to keep their front court players out of foul trouble so they can keep the Heels off the glass late in the game. I think Carolina takes this one by the middle of the second half but Clemson goes on a run at some point late in the game to make it interesting.

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