CLEMSON -- Brad Brownell has heard all about the streak.
As the former UNC Wilmington coach, he heard the chatter from coastal-based Tar Heels fans, who took pride in Clemson's winless streak in Chapel Hill, N.C. The streak remains alive and well as Brownell takes his first shot at snapping Clemson's 0-for-54 mark at North Carolina today (WMMP-TV, 8 p.m.).
If Clemson can make it a nine-game winning streak and end the historic drought with a star-less group still learning Brownell's system, the first-year Tigers coach might return to Clemson to lead a ticker-tape parade down College Avenue.
"I've usually heard about it from the other side, being in North Carolina for 12 years," Brownell said of the streak. "Our players haven't been part of it for very long. I haven't been part of it at all from this standpoint. We are just playing the kids in the North Carolina uniforms, and that is all we are worried about."
Those in North Carolina uniforms tonight appear more beatable than others who have worn the argyle trim, tormenting the Tigers (13-4, 2-1 ACC)
over the last six decades. UNC (12-5, 2-1) is coming off a 20-point loss at Georgia Tech on Sunday, and was nearly defeated at home by Virginia Tech last week.
Clemson missed an opportunity last year to defeat a down North Carolina team because Clemson did not have a trip Chapel Hill on the schedule.
While the Tar Heels (12-5, 2-1) appear improved over last season's team that failed to make the NCAA tournament, they are still relatively inexperienced with players like freshman Harrison Barnes sophomores Dexter Strickland and John Henson in the starting lineup.
The Tigers would have liked to play North Carolina immediately after defeating Georgia Tech last Wednesday, a night Clemson shot 69 percent from the field. But Clemson has had six days to cool off.
"We didn't want a bye week," Brownell said. "When you are playing good you just want to keep playing."
If Clemson is to pull off a signature win the history of the program it will be up to seniors like Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt. They were players who nearly ended the streak in 2008, losing in double-overtime, 103-93 in Chapel Hill.
Said Grant of ending the streak: "I'm sure it's in the back of everyone's mind. We are focused."
Grant has blossomed into a complete player this year averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game, and Stitt is becoming an inside-out scoring threat. Despite the perceived lack of talent, Brownell said he promised his seniors this would not be a rebuilding season.
"It's critical those guys embrace what you are trying to do," Brownell said. "The seniors are the guys that set the standard for your program. It's not easy when you have a coaching change and you're a senior. I talked to those guys immediately when I took over. It wasn't going to be about the future it wasn't going to be about my recruits, it wasn't going to be about any of that -- we are going to do the best we can for you."
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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