UNC Basketball travels to Raleigh for a clash with the NC State Wolfpack

The UNC basketball program will travel for its third consecutive road game in conference play as it takes on rival NC State on Wednesday night.
Charleston Southern v North Carolina
Charleston Southern v North Carolina / Ryan Hunt/GettyImages

The UNC basketball program is off to a hot 3-0 start in conference play with two consecutive road wins in tough environments.

The Tar Heels defeated Pitt 70-57 and No. 16 Clemson 65-55 last week to climb into first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Their reward for winning two road games in a row is another road contest against bitter rival NC State. There is currently a three-way tie for first place in the ACC, with all three teams sitting at 3-0 in conference and 11-3 overall. Two of those teams are NC State and North Carolina, who'll meet for the first time Wednesday evening.

2272. . 11-3. ESPN. Wednesday, January 10, 2024. Matchup. 11-3. 8:00 PM EST. 441

Wednesday night will be the first time since 1974 that both North Carolina and NC State come into the game at 3-0 in conference play. This will be the 178th meeting in the storied rivalry, with the Tar Heels winning 118 of the first 177 games in the series.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

The UNC basketball program has gone on a recent defensive tear after struggling early in the season. After giving up 87 points in back-to-back games to start December, the Tar Heels have given up 69, 60, 57, and 55 points in their four-game winning streak. That's good for an average of about 60 points per game allowed compared to the 83 points they score per game. The Wolfpack are also strong on defense, allowing just 68 points per game. Look for this game to be a physical, defensive slugfest.

This probably sounds like a broken record, but free throws matter! The UNC basketball program is fourth in the ACC, knocking down 77% of their free throw attempts, while NC State is 11th in the conference, shooting 70% from the line. North Carolina gets to the line more than any team in the ACC, and they'll look to do that again as their opponent gives up about 19 attempts per game.

Something to Watch For

We've seen this in the previous two matchups last season, and we're likely to see it again tomorrow night. The battle in the post between Armando Bacot and D.J. Burns Jr. will be the matchup of the night. Bacot comes into the matchup averaging 15 points per game and 11 rebounds per game while shooting 53% from the floor. Burns Jr. enters the contest averaging 12 points per game and four rebounds per game on 53% shooting. This physical matchup benefits Bacot who gets to the line often and converts, making 78% of his free throw attempts.

As mentioned earlier, this will be the third consecutive road game for the Tar Heels to start conference play. Both games resulted in wins, but they were very physical matchups. Both Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan are a little banged up, dealing with a wrist injury and an ankle injury, respectively. Look to see how the team responds to the physicality the Wolfpack will bring to knock the Tar Heels off their spot.

Last Meeting

The UNC basketball program split the two-game series with NC State last season. The latest loss was a 77-69 defeat on the road on February 19, 2023.

The Tar Heels shot just 35% from the field, while NC State shot 45% from the field. The Tar Heels also had 13 turnovers compared to the Wolfpack's two. North Carolina won the rebounding battle 48-34, but costly turnovers down the stretch doomed the Tar Heels. Caleb Love scored 23 points on 7/17 shooting and was the second-leading scorer in the game behind the Wolfpack's Jarkel Joiner, who scored 29 points. Armando Bacot also poured in 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who only had two players in double figures for the game.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 6.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.4 apg

No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 11 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

No. 4 R.J. Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 20.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.6 apg

No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.4 apg

No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 13.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.6 apg