In perhaps the biggest game of the season for the North Carolina Tar Heels as the NC State Wolfpack head into the Dean Dome. UNC (18-8, 8-5 ACC) looks to pull even with NC State (19-7, 8-5 ACC) and add to their NCAA Tournament resume with a win over their in state rivals. The Wolfpack have had a hard time winning in Chapel Hill with nine straight losses in the Roy Williams era.
Keys to Victory: Stopping Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie was a chore that proved too much for UNC in their last outing with the two State big men combining for 33 points and 24 rebounds. Now UNC has a smaller lineup with P.J. Hairston at the power forward spot, defending in the paint will be no small task.
“They’ve got two big inside players that take the ball to the basket against big guys,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “They’re really going to take the ball to the basket against little guys, so it is something to be concerned about.”
On the other end of the floor UNC has to take advantage of their own match up advantages. The Heels have been able to stretch the floor and create opportunities for their shooters. UNC relies on the three point shot a lot more than they usually do due to the roster make up and lack of a dominating inside post presence. The Heels need to hit from outside and that likely means riding Hairston who has averaged 20.7 points since being inserted into the starting lineup. UNC shot just 8-22 in their last meeting with NC State and will need a much better performance if they want to knock off NC State.
Rebounding will be huge, both teams are among the best in the country rebounding the basketball. In their last meeting NC State won the battle 36-29. UNC holds a 41-37 advantage on average this season but those numbers go out the door since the lineup change. Hairston is rebounding well at a clip of 6.7 per game since the lineup change but will have his hands full inside against NC State.
Prediction: State’s road struggles continue as the Heels finally add a meaningful victory to their resume topping State 74-71.