The Tar Heels are set for a rivalry showdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack later today. Defeating your rival is always important, but with a big for the NCAA tournament on the line for both teams…the stakes are high.
With a bid to the big dance on the line, the intensity and physicality of the game are sure to be higher than usual making it tougher on both teams.
North Carolina has to keep playing physically and mentally tough like they have in the past two games and forget that they’ve struggled at all this season. Just like Larry Fedora did with his football team, Roy Williams needs to install a 1-0 game plan in his locker room and get his players motivated.
But for the Tar Heels, it may just be one key for them defensively that wins them the game: keeping State’s leading scorer away from the basket.
TJ Warren leads the Wolfpack averaging 22.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. His team leading stats aren’t the only thing that suggests UNC should guard him. Warren is the go-to-guy for NC State. When the Wolfpack are down, he is the one they rely on to not only score but lead their team to overcome adversity.
But maybe the most compelling reason to guard TJ Warren comes from NC State head coach Mark Gottfried himself. Friday while speaking on the David Glenn Show, Gottfried made it clear that Warren is their guy:
” …We need TJ to score, we want TJ to score, and TJ is going to score…”
So for the Tar Heels, eliminating Warren will be a huge win for them and key to victory if they are successful at doing just that. Of course North Carolina needs to play solid defense all around and be smart with their shot selection and at the free throw line too. Smart ball will lead to fewer mistakes and will show North Carolina and entirely new game if they just think things through.