After squeaking by with a couple of tough wins, third-seeded Clemson and top-seeded North Carolina will face off this afternoon for the ACC Championship. Here are three keys for each team...
1. Convert easy baskets.
Clemson loves to press and will sometimes leave the basket open after trapping the first pass. If North Carolina can convert easy lay-ups and 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 situations, it will make life easier.
2. Get Booker on the bench.
Clemson's front line of Trevor Booker and James Mays has presented Tyler Hansbrough with his toughest matchup problem this season. His lowest point total came in Littlejohn Coliseum, and he hit 17 free throws to get points in the second game. Booker has been prone to early foul trouble, so getting him on the bench will be a priority.
3. Get Wayne Ellington some touches.
Ellington has averaged 35 points in two matchups with the Tigers this season, so his production will be key, especially if Hansbrough is kept quiet.
1. Force turnovers.
Clemson's press has caused problems for UNC in both games, and it changed momentum against Duke. The press needs to be effective to slow North Carolina's run-and-gun ways.
2. Hit the offensive boards.
Clemson has to win the battle of second-chance points; it was those opportunities that allowed the Tigers to maintain the lead over Duke throughout the second half.
3. Play with confidence down the stretch.
Against Duke, Clemson handled the final four minutes brilliantly, as Bob Knight pointed out on ESPN. The Tigers have given the first two games with the Tar Heels away down the stretch; if they can hold onto a lead again, it would be huge for the program.
PREDICTION: Clemson 90-87 (OT)