Rivalry picks: UNC hosts NC State
Posted February 22, 2013
Updated February 23, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Saturday's contest at the Dean Smith Center marks the 224th meeting between in-state rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State.
The Tar Heels hold an overwhelming advantage in the series, 147-76, but the Wolfpack won the most recent match-up on Jan. 26 at PNC Arena, 91-83.
Lorenzo Brown had 20 points and 11 assists to help the 18th-ranked Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels, ending a 13-game losing streak in the century-long rivalry.
UNC is (18-8, 8-5 ACC) on the season and NC State is (19-7, 8-5 ACC). Roy Williams is sticking with his small starting line-up against the Wolfpack and Mark Gottfried has said their focus will be on PJ Hairston.
As in any rivalry, it is not about the record; it is about the pride and bragging rights that go along with beating the combatant with whom you share nothing more than bad blood.
The WRAL sports staff weighs in on Saturday's rivalry game offering their keys to the game and tell you who they think will win.
Unexpectedly, NC State and North Carolina enter Saturday’s game with identical records. How many out there though that would happen? Neither will win the ACC regular season but both would like to finish in the top 4 to avoid playing on Thursday in the ACC tournament.
Less than a month ago, NC State snapped a 13-game losing streak to North Carolina with an 83-79 win in Raleigh. Lorenzo Brown was outstanding in that game with 20 points and 11 assists. Freshman TJ Warren added 19. The Tar Heels did a great job of cutting into a 28 point 2nd half deficit.
So does Roy Williams keep his small line-up that has yielded 2 wins in the last 3 games? I think he will start with it and see how it goes. PJ Hairston has averaged 20 points in his three starts and has scored in double figures in 9 of the last 10 games he has played. James Michael McAdoo got in foul trouble in the first meeting with NC State and can’t afford that if Carolina goes small.
NC State hasn’t beaten Carolina twice in one season since the 2002-03 season. While the Wolfpack’s post season destination has been determined, the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels need another quality win to strengthen their NCAA resume. Carolina has one win over a top 50 RPI team, that was at home against UNLV. NC State is 2-5 playing in opponent’s gyms and sticking with the home team success formula, I’ll take the Tar Heels to win.
Pick: UNC 80 NCSU 77
I've gone back and forth on this one. One the one hand, I think Carolina has found a way to maximize the floor time of the Heels' best players while also increasing their tempo to a level closer to what Roy Williams desires through the "small lineup." And it has worked.
But still, NC State's size should be too much for a smaller Tar Heel team to handle. I expect Richard Howell and CJ Leslie to be the difference-makers in this game, much as they were in the January match-up. And for that reason, I'm picking the Pack to win 82-77.
Pick: NCSU 82 UNC 77
Since getting stomped in South Beach, the Heels have looked much improved, even in last Wednesday's loss at Duke. State, on the other hand, is coming off maybe the best 40 minutes of basketball they've played in league play this season. So, who's got more "mo?"
Roy Williams' tinkering with the lineup has yielded positive results thus far and the Heels will provide a different look than the one they flashed in the January 26th loss at PNC Arena. James Michael McAdoo's early foul troubles changed the mood of that one in a hurry as the Pack lead by nearly 30 at one point. If JMM stays on the floor, I don't think this one gets nearly as out of hand. I'm banking on history not repeating itself, and giving the slight edge to Carolina.
Pick: UNC 74 NCSU 70
I am going with North Carolina for this one. Roy Williams’ team seems to be hitting its groove at the right time. The “small” lineup is working and this group is playing as well as it has all season. I think UNC has something to prove and they will look to do that against NC State this week and Duke next month. As for the Wolfpack, I am not convinced this team can consistently win on the road. For whatever reason, State struggles when they are away from PNC Arena. That coupled with the Tar Heels increased confidence will lead to a UNC victory.
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There's no trading deadline, nor is there a waiver wire, in the college game. But, when State and UNC meet at the Smith Center the Wolfpack will be seeing a drastically different Tar Heels team than last month in Raleigh. Since Roy Williams implemented his smaller line up, Carolina has been more efficient and explosive offensively and more aggressive defensively.
That's not to say that the Pack still aren't the better team overall. NC State still has more future pros on the court than the Heels and the best player in this game in point guard Lorenzo Brown. However, it's not like the Heels have a bunch of YMCA chuckers out there, and this smaller, sleeker line up has infused energy and a bit of a sense of urgency into UNC's performance. How, James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston handle State's front court tandem of Calvin Leslie and Richard Howell will likely tell the story of whether or not North Carolina has a chance to win the game. Freshman T.J. Warren's recent scoring and rebounding prowess will also be a difficult element for Carolina's smaller group.
However, the reason I think the Heels will ultimately will prevail is more about intangibles than anything else. Aside from the Wolfpack's general malaise towards defense, I just feel as though North Carolina will be the more desperate club. Without a significant win since before the first of the year, the Tar Heels are still in the process of proving their NCAA tournament worthiness and putting the pelt of the Wolfpack on their resume would go a long way towards making their case.
In a fun, up and down the court affair, I'll take the Tar Heels.
Pick: UNC 83 NCSU 80
As the great poet Christopher Wallace once said, "things done changed."
North Carolina hosts NC State in Chapel Hill with a new look and renewed energy, but the guard heavy lineup associated with the turnaround will get a big matchup test against the Wolfpack.
While most of the talk revolves around P.J. Hairston getting assigned Calvin Leslie, the more interesting matchup is between James Michael McAdoo and Richard Howell. One guy is nimble and could draw early foul trouble. The other guy is hard to handle physically in the paint.
This should be a more back-and-forth contest than the first meeting with lineups that favor more possessions. In all honesty, this game is a toss-up. Home court compels me to pick North Carolina.
Mark Thomas did not submit a pick, but we all know which way his pick would go.
NC State looks to take two off UNC for the first time since 2003 and coming off a complete performance over FSU it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that will happen. State will be able to own the glass in this one as UNC has switched to a smaller line-up. But that won't be the difference.
Home court has been king in the ACC this year and since inserting Hairston into the starting lineup, Roy Williams Heels are looking more like Roy Williams Heels. UNC will get off to a better start in this one and transition buckets should be there.
Expect a high scoring game and the home court to be enough of an advantage for Carolina.
Pick: UNC 88 NCSU 84
This game is more important to North Carolina in terms of the postseason, but is that enough of a motivating edge to get the Heels past NC State? I have a hard time believing so.
NC State is coming off an impressive win against Florida State and it is not so much the score alone that reflects that. Rodney Purvis came off the bench and provided energy. TJ Warren blew by his career highs and finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, CJ Leslie had a double-double and Lorenzo Brown doled out nine assists. If not for the 14 turnovers, the Pack could have put up 110. Point being: they are finding their roles.
UNC is looking a 10-seed in the eyes right now and know they need to keep winning. James Michael McAdoo has done a bit of everything for the Heels this season, but has just one double-digit scoring performance in the last four games and that came against a less-than-stellar Georgia Tech team Tuesday. UNC is third in the nation in assists per game and fifth in rebounds per game but who is going to be the guy on a given night is anybody’s guess.
Even in the Dean Dome, where the Wolfpack are just 5-21 all-time, the matchup edge has to go to NC State Saturday.
Pick: NCSU 89 UNC 81
NC State broke the Tar Heels' 13-game win streak in January but this time the match-up is on the Heels turf where they are 12-1 this year. Their sole loss being to Miami and whether we want to believe it or not Miami is actually really good.
North Carolina is going with their smaller starting lineup, which, shocker, is working out better for Roy Williams. He did say he'd play his big men a little more to counter NC State's but as we saw in the second half of their last meeting the smaller lineup did just fine.
The key for the Tar Heels will be limiting CJ Leslie's production and keeping Richard Howell occupied down low, which James Michael McAdoo should handle just fine. Mark Gottfried spent a lot of time Friday talking about how they will defend PJ Hairston, but that could leave the Pack vulnerable to a Reggie Bullock assault.
All that combined with UNC's freshmen adding more support, Rodney Purvis' absence of late and the home court advantage, I think UNC takes this one.
Pick: UNC 79 NCSU 72
With Roy Williams giving into the small lineup overlords since NC State’s win in Raleigh, the second game between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack will certainly be a chess match – most notably, how will UNC’s lineup impact C.J. Leslie on both ends of the court?
Can the Heels consistently defend Leslie with a combination of P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, and can Leslie stay with either of those two or someone else he ends up guarding on the other end? In all likelihood, the team that figures this out best and manages the matchup will win the game.
Aside from the intriguing matchups, Saturday’s game is one of two remaining chances the Heels have at getting a quality win to improve their NCAA resume. The second will come March 9, when Duke comes to Chapel Hill in the season finale. At 18-8 overall and 8-5 in league play, a win over NC State would be a boost for North Carolina, likely pushing the Heels onto the desired side of the bubble. NC State isn’t necessarily in the position of being able to take a loss, but the Wolfpack would likely overcome one easier in terms of NCAA Tournament talk.
On top of that, Saturday’s game will go a long way in helping to determine the seeding in the ACC Tournament. Who wants to play on Thursday less, essentially.
Pick: UNC 79 NCSU 73
Other predictions: One fan ejection, three total technical fouls