NORTH CAROLINA STATE (15-5, 4-1 ACC) AT NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA (16-3, 3-1 ACC)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN
Location: Dean E. Smith Center
North Carolina State 55 (No. 5 ACC)
North Carolina 10 (No. 2 ACC)
Line: North Carolina -15 (O/U 159)
North Carolina State Players to Watch: G Lorenzo Brown, 6-5 So. (12.4 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.3 rpg); F C.J. Leslie, 6-8 So. (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 53.5% FG); G C.J. Williams, 6-5 Sr. (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 51.6% FG). The continued improvement of Browns, who has at least six assists in every ACC game this season, is a significant reason why the Wolfpack are 4-1 in the conference.
North Carolina Players to Watch: F Harrison Barnes, 6-8 So. (17.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.6% 3s); F John Henson, 6-11 Jr. (14.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 54% FG); G Kendall Marshall, 6-4 So. (5.9 ppg, 9.5 apg, 1.3 spg). After struggling against Miami and Florida State, Barnes appears to have had a breakout game with 27 points in Thursday’s 82-68 win over Virginia Tech. In the victory, Barnes hit 8-of-14 shots and 10-of-12 free throws, and had six rebounds, three steals and a block.
Storylines: North Carolina State has won three straight and is a half-game back of Duke and Florida State in the ACC standings. At 4-1, the Wolfpack are one win from equaling last year’s conference win total. North Carolina, which was the only Top 25 team in the country not to play last weekend, is 3-1 in the league.
Keys: UNC junior guard Dexter Strickland, who was shooting a team-best 57 percent from the field, tore his ACL in Thursday’s win over Virginia Tech and will miss the remainder of the season. Sophomore Reggie Bullock, who missed most of last season with a knee injury of his own, is the likely candidate to start in his place. The Tar Heels has had the best offense and been one of the best rebounding teams in the nation all year. They lead the country in scoring at 85 points per game. Behind Marshall, they’re fifth in assists (18.4 per game) and they’re 38th in field goal percentage (47.6 percent). UNC also ranks first in America in rebounding margin. The Heels grab 46.3 rebounds per game, which is also the nation’s best, and allow opponents to gather only 34.8. The Wolfpack also shoot the ball well. They rank 37th in the country at 47.7 percent, and they’re third in the ACC at 76.9 point per contest. If the game comes down to free throw shooting, NC State has a huge advantage. The Pack shoot 75 percent from the foul line, led by senior Scott Wood, who is 48-for-48 at the stripe this season. He has made 58 straight, dating back to last season. C.J. Williams also shoots 86.1 percent. UNC is 11th in the ACC at 64.7 percent. NC State is third in the ACC with a 36.5 percent 3-point rate. Wood, who is the Wolfpack’s’ leading scorer at 13.3 per game, also leads the ACC at 45.3 percent behind the arc. The Tar Heels turn over their opponents 14.5 times per game, and both teams average 13 errors per game. NC State has five players averaging 11 points per game or better. UNC leads the all-time series 144-75 and 97-45 since the formation of the ACC in 1953-54. The Tar Heels have won 10 straight over their in-state rivals and nine of those decisions have been by double-digits. The Wolfpack haven’t won in Chapel Hill since a 75-67 overtime win on Feb. 25, 2003. North Carolina State is 2-1 in true road games this season. It is 2-0 on the road in the ACC. The last time the Wolfpack won multiple league road games was in 2005-06 when they went 4-4. The win over Virginia Tech was the Tar Heels first road victory of the season (after losses to Kentucky and Florida State). However, they are 12-0 at the Smith Center.
The Bottom Line: North Carolina State is improving and should get an NCAA nod when all is said and done, but the Wolfpack aren’t yet up to the task of winning in Chapel Hill. Expect a big run or two from the Tar Heels, who will put this one away early. Not even 15 points is enough to take NC State.
The Pick: North Carolina 91, North Carolina State 69
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 45-26