The NC State Wolfpack will be coming off a loss to Wake Forest going into Saturday’s match-up against North Carolina. NC State has lost 2 of their last 3 with a win sandwiched in between being a 2 point squeeker against Clemson. Even though they are playing poorly, as Miami showed against Duke, anything can happen in ACC basketball.
UNC has been playing with a high level of defensive intensity in recent games. They will have to keep that up because the Wolfpack shoot 51% from the floor. That is good for 11th in the nation. Since the game will take place in Raleigh it will be important to come out with the same intensity and take the crowd out of the game. The game will come down to the tempo of the game. In the Heels’ win against Georgia Tech on Wednesday, they proved they could still run the open floor and score. Marcus Paige will have to continue to make smart decisions and get play makers the ball in transition. Even though NC State scores an average of 79.2 points a game, they have been struggling recently and should not be able to keep up with Carolina running the floor.
North Carolina is hitting a stride right now. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston have been shooting extremely well. Dexter Strickland is getting back to doing what he does best, cutting to the basket, James Michael McAdoo is playing better down low and even J.P. Tokoto and Jackson Simmons have been contributing off the bench. UNC’s “X-Factor” is Hairston. The rest of the scorers for UNC are fairly consistent. Hairston can score 20 points one night and forget to show up the next game. Carolina will need Hairston to get on the bus to Raleigh and hopefully throw down another massive dunk like the one in the Georgia Tech game just for the highlight reel.
NC State has the ability and the personnel to be one of the most dynamic teams in the NCAA. C.J. Leslie can be as good as any player in college basketball and he is surrounded by other high caliber players such as Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell. They have shooting and size. The outbreak of Desmond Hubert’s defense will play a vital role in this game in the post. He has emerged as a defensive guru. In the Georgia Tech game, he accumulated 5 blocks. Hopefully to Roy Williams, this makes up for the 5 times he shot-putted the basketball in the direction of the basket.
These 2 teams are heading in opposite directions. UNC is getting better and NC State has been slumping. Miami sits at the top of the ACC with 5 wins and no loses. Other than that, there are 6 teams holding steady with 2 loses each including both the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack. This will be a huge game for the Tar Heels to stay in the upper tier of the ACC. With everything taken in to account, including NC State’s home court advantage, I say UNC wins this one by 8.