No. 1 Comes to Town

CLEMSON – The two things missing from Oliver Purnell's time as head coach at Clemson is an NCAA Tournament bid and a true signature win. Both have been close, but in the end, each has fallen short of happening.

What: No. 1 North Carolina (14-0) at No. 19 Clemson (12-1)
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday
TV: FSN South


And should the Tigers manage to pull off the upset over No. 1 North Carolina Sunday night, one missing piece will definitely have been accomplished, and the other will be a lot closer to becoming a reality.

"This is definitely a big one," Clemson senior guard Cliff Hammonds said. "Definitely beating the number one team in the country would be a signature win."

The Tigers have been so close in getting those big wins, most notably against Duke the last couple of years.

There have been nice wins, like the one to close out the regular season last year at Virginia Tech and the one at home against Syracuse to advance to the NIT semifinals last season.

But the win over a big-time, highly ranked opponent just hasn't happened. That's been the glaring weakness of Clemson's resume when it came time for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to pick teams.

And each of the last two years has seen the Tigers on the outside looking in as a result.

"It's a good measuring stick to see where we are," Purnell said. "To go against a very good team will give us an idea of where we are and where we need to go."

Generally, teams like Clemson, which are pretty good, but not exactly sure just how good, like to ease into conference play before playing such a formidable opponent like North Carolina.

However, Purnell isn't so sure that this isn't the best time to take on the Tar Heels.

"Normally you don't want the best team in the league right off the bat," he said. "But we're playing well right now. Our players believe that they can play with anybody."

Purnell is right.

The players do believe they can win. There's an air of confidence surrounding this team like at no other time under Purnell.

There is firepower from the outside and muscle on the inside. It's a veteran team with a deep bench, to boot. Everything is seemingly in place for Clemson to have its best shot of beating a team like North Carolina.

No. 1 North Carolina (14-0)
G 5 Ty Lawson (5-11, 195) 13.0 ppg 5.5 apg
G 1 Marcus Ginyard (6-5, 218) 7.1 ppg 4.6 rpg
C 50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250) 22.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg
F 21 Deon Thompson (6-8, 240) 8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F 22 Wayne Ellington (6-4, 200) 16.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg

No. 21 Clemson (12-1)
G 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 170) 8.2 ppg, 3.5 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 200) 10.2 ppg, 4.1 apg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) 9.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 215) 16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 230) 12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg< Top Stories