Game Preview: N.C. State
The name N.C. State doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of many Tar Heel faithful. It doesn’t seem to do so for current UNC players either. The reason for that is in the Roy Williams era at UNC, the Heels are 19-1 and winners of 13 straight contests. No current player on the roster has EVER lost to N.C. State. The Wolfpack (Side note: WhyTF is Wolfpack one word? Insert State joke here:______) has always been a joke to the current players, even last year with much of the same cast donning the red and white. (UNC admittedly had an awesome team that made many opponents a joke last year.)
So what’s different now? National acclaim, one. After State’s impressive Sweet 16 run in the tourney, many had them pegged to win the ACC in the preseason. They have talented players in C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell and Scott Wood. Additional blue-chip recruits like Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren have added fuel to the fire. Mark Gottfried has proven that he can get kids to come to Raleigh. Should UNC be worried though?
Don’t ask Dex.
They should be, and this is the first time in quite a while that’s been the case. The Pack is coming into the game on a two-game losing skid. They need a win, and they hate the Tar Heels. Ask any Wolfpack fan which team they’d want to beat most, and it’s UNC every time. You know that feeling you get when we’re about to play Duke? That’s what they feel right now. This is their Super Bowl.
It’s also an important game for Carolina. Second place in the conference is on the line for a team that started 0-2. If the Heels can win Saturday, they’ll officially have “serious momentum.” Can they stand up to the pressure?
- The game is being broadcast as part of College Gameday. No, I don’t think Hubert Davis will bolt the bench trying to get back on his old broadcasting gig, but I do think it will contribute to a rowdy atmosphere. They film the spots for Gameday early in the morning (like 8 a.m.) and then film the live show 11 a.m.-12 p.m. The game isn’t until 7 p.m. Those students and fans are going to be getting amped at noon and it won’t stop until the game is underway. PNC arena is HUGE, and it’s sold out. When UNC plays on the road in Raleigh, it is always an electric place, but Saturday is going to be a shit show. Mark my words.
- The Pack has a pretty balanced offensive output, with basically six players averaging double figures – Rodney Purvis averages 9.9. C.J. Leslie leads the way at 15.3 per contest, while grabbing almost seven boards a game. He’ll most likely be guarded by Desmond Hubert down low. Hubert has some athleticism, but it will still be a tough assignment as Leslie is a freak athlete. Gottfried probably knows that between Leslie and Howell, the Pack has an advantage it should look to exploit. We’re predicting they feed Leslie early and often.
- T.J. Warren has shot a ridiculous percentage from beyond the arc (52 %), but has only taken 17 attempts on the year. Rodney Purvis has been good, if not spectacular, shooting 40 percent on fewer than three attempts per game. The real threat that will need to be neutralized is Scott Wood, who has more than double the three-point attempts of Purvis and is shooting 42 percent on the year. He’s a tall guard, so he’ll likely draw Reggie Bullock as a defender. Reggie destroyed Wood last year.
- State is No. 1 and UNC is No. 2 in the ACC in scoring offense. The Pack leads the league in overall FG percentage, while UNC leads the league in assists, steals and offensive rebounds.
- I looked at some more stats! Turns out that State is tenth in the league in turnover margin, giving up about a half a turnover (0.5) more than their opponents per game. Again, UNC leads the league in steals. This is important.
It’s going to be a tough game on the road for the Heels. The arena will be rocking and State will be in desperate mode looking for a win. It might be the toughest game of this season given the context. State is on a losing streak while UNC is on a winning streak. Could this be the turning point in the season for both teams? I know Benn has stopped making predictions (Benn note: And watching Saturday games live!), but I’m feeling saucy. I say the trends continue in a tight match, and I have to take the team that’s 19-1 in recent history. I hate State.
PREDICTION: UNC 73, N.C. State 71