Game Preview: NC State
Much like that shirt above, things are just different this year. N.C. State is still somehow miraculously in better shape to make the tourney than the Tar Heels. And for the first time in ages, the second matchup of the season for these schools will have serious March implications.
For the Wolfpack, it’s the last quality game on their regular-season schedule. After the match-up in Chapel Hill on Saturday, State has tilts against BC, @Georgia Tech, Wake and @FSU remaining. While we all know that Wake Forest is no cakewalk for the Pack, it’s a pretty fluffy run to finish the season. But that fluffiness also robs them of chances for resume wins, and taking a loss in that stretch would certainly hurt their profile.
For the Heels, tomorrow is one of a few chances left to grab a key victory they desperately need – and probably one their best chances. The Wolfpack has struggled on the road, and with the best games remaining for UNC being @Maryland and when Duke comes to town March 9, tomorrow is nearing must-win territory. We’re big bracketology haters early in the season, but about this time of year is when that stuff matters, and most experts seem to think what’s hurting UNC’s profile is a lack of good wins.
- N.C. State has lost four of its past five games away from Raleigh, including the aforementioned trip to Winston-Salem. That one win came at Clemson, when Scott Wood hit a buzzer-beating three to seal the deal. Not exactly a great track record. Getting a W at Maryland is certainly doable, and you can never discount the Heels against Duke at home, but this is a great chance for the Heels to take better control of their own destiny — not to mention start a new winning streak.
- With the small lineup, P.J. Hairston will draw C.J. Leslie in an epic battle of abbreviated given names. P.J. seems to think he can handle this, however, according to the N and O’s Andrew Carter, who was at the presser Friday:
- Fun Fact: Hairston played the 4 his senior year of high school. Twitter knows all!
- Which version of the Heels shows up? This year has been a Jekyll and Hyde type season. Even the Hyde Heels, however, have been able to beat the Georgia Techs and Wake Forests of the world. It’s when you cross that line to the N.C. States and Virginias and above that we really need the Jekyll Heels to come to play. If UNC hits its first three, 3-pointers, that’s a good sign.
What to do, what to do. Reverse jinx? Seems like a win-win. If State wins then my prediction is correct, but if UNC wins, well, obviously my reverse jinx did its magic. Nah, that’s taking the coward’s way out. I know how much this game means to Roy, and I know how bad the Pack plays on the road. I’m going Heels, baby.
UNC 84, N.C. State 76