North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

North Carolina Tar Heels (12-4 SU, 5-8 ATS) vs. Clemson Tigers (13-3 SU, 8-5 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 13, 2009, Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: North Carolina +3.5/Clemson -3.5
Over/Under: 152

A pair of nationally ranked ACC teams battle it out in a key conference game, as the Clemson Tigers host the North Carolina Tar Heels.

North Carolina has had an interesting season thus far. The Tar Heels lost three games in November and December to three of the top teams in the country – Syracuse, Kentucky and Texas. The Tar Heels haven’t really gotten too many high quality wins other than victories over Ohio State and Michigan State. Last week, they played at the College of Charleston in what seemed to be a rather meaningless non-conference game. But the Tar Heels shockingly lost the game in overtime, 82-79. The Tar Heels bounced back in their ACC opener on Sunday by defeating Virginia Tech at home, 78-64.

The Tar Heels have played in two true road games this season and five games away from home. In the two true road games, they lost close games at Kentucky at Charleston. In their other three games away from home, they lost to Texas and Syracuse and they beat Syracuse.

Clemson hasn’t played an incredibly difficult schedule, but the Tigers do have wins over Butler, South Carolina and Boston College. They have lost to Texas A&M, Illinois and Duke. They were blowing out Illinois before blowing the lead in the second half and allowing the Illini to come back and win the game. While UNC lost to Charleston, Clemson won 94-55 over Charleston.

In their last game, Clemson won 72-56 at home over Boston College. Trevor Booker, who has been carrying the Tigers all season long, led the team with 19 points. Demontez Stitt had 15 points and Tanner Smith added 12. The Tigers didn’t do anything incredibly well, but they simply did everything a little better than BC. Clemson shot a better percentage, made more 3-pointers, shot a better 3-point percentage, grabbed more rebounds, got to the free throw line more, and won the turnover battle.

In UNC’s win over Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels shot 54 percent from the field and they held the Hokies to 36 percent. But the Heels continue to have turnover problems, as they committed 18 turnovers against Virginia Tech. Ed Davis had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double and fourth in the last five games. Larry Drew II had 14 points, eight assists and only two turnovers. It’s the big men who are racking up the turnovers, as Davis and Tyler Zeller each had four of them.

Clemson’s biggest strength is its ability to create turnovers, forcing 19.2 per game. That’s not good for the Tar Heels, who are committing 16.2 turnovers per game. Clemson also shoots well from 3-point range at 36.5 percent, while UNC allows opponents to shoot 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Heels are shooting even better at 38.5 percent from 3-point territory, while Clemson’s opponents are shooting 31.9 percent. Both teams are shooting just shy of 50 percent from the field and are allowing their opponents to shoot 41 percent. And both teams are out-rebounding their opponents by almost seven boards per game.

North Carolina is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 games as a road underdog and 15-5-1 ATS in its last 21 games overall as an underdog. Clemson is 6-0 ATS in its last six games as a favorite and 5-0 ATS in its last five home games. The Tigers are also 5-0 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win, 5-0 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite, and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall. The under is 6-1 in Clemson’s last seven games and 5-1 in UNC’s last six games following an ATS win. The over is 4-0 in the last four games between these teams. Last time Clemson and UNC met, the Tar Heels won 94-70 in Chapel Hill last January.

Ryno’s Pick: This is a big game for both of these teams. North Carolina lost last week to Charleston and need to prove they can win on the road, since they haven’t yet done so this season. Clemson needs a signature win and this is a great opportunity at home. The Tigers also don’t want to fall to 1-2 in conference play. These teams match up well, so it should be a close game. Clemson will use its full-court press and the Tar Heels like to run as much as possible, so expect a lot of quick shots. Both teams are good 3-point shooting teams and both teams like to get the ball inside, so it should be an entertaining high-scoring affair. Take the over of 152.