top of page

Heel Tough Blog: NC State Preview

University of North Carolina Athletics

Tonight Carolina concludes its final road game of its three-game road trip to open up ACC play, as they travel to Raleigh to take on rival NC State. After wins at Pittsburgh and Clemson, Carolina is currently 2-0 on the road to help propel UNC to its first 3-0 start in ACC play under Hubert Davis, and the first 3-0 start since 2015-16. While Clemson was a ranked opponent, given the environment, tonight will be the toughest environment the Tar Heels have played in this season. 

Kevin Keatts made the NCAA Tournament last season, to save his job after a couple of down seasons coming out of the pandemic. Making the tournament back-to-back years would do wonders for him, and that program, and at 11-3, (3-0m it’s definitely on the table. State is coming off a home win over Virginia over the weekend, their most significant win of the season. That win at home has been a part of State’s dominance at the PNC arena, where they are 8-0 on the season. They are led in scoring by Arizona State transfer, DJ Horne, averaging over 14 points per game. He’s one of four Wolfpack players to average double-figure scoring. Horne is also a Raleigh, NC native, so expect him to be motivated to play well in his first game in the rivalry. 

Carolina will look to improve to 4-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2015-16 when they started conference play 8-0. During the four-game winning streak, Carolina’s defense has played at an elite level, allowing just over 60 points per game, sparking an in-season turnaround defensively that nobody saw coming. They’ll need another strong defensive performance tonight if they want to emerge victorious from what figures to be a rowdy PNC Arena: 

  1. Limit Turnovers: Carolina has done a really good job valuing the basketball, and limiting their turnovers, and that’ll need to be the case tonight, as State thrives at forcing turnovers. While Kevin Keatts doesn’t press nearly as much as State as he did while at UNC-Wilmington, it’s still the fabric of what they do well defensively, forcing over 14 turnovers per game. It’s not a coincidence that Carolina’s turnovers have gone down since Hubert Davis opted to play a lineup with multiple ball handlers. They’ll need to be strong with the ball, and make crisp passes, as State will extend its defense, and pressure the passing lane. In their loss last year to the Wolfpack, live ball turnovers led to easy runouts the other way, UNC will look to limit those miscues tonight. 

  2. Get Them In Foul Trouble: The Tar Heels won at Clemson on Saturday despite shooting 7-12 from the foul line, and while they were able to overcome a poor shooting night, they might not be able to recreate the same success tonight. Carolina is in the top 5 in made free throws per game and in the top 15 in free throws attempted per game. State is going to play aggressively and physically, and Carolina needs to make them pay for it. When UNC beat NC State at home last year, they did so by living at the foul line, which is the most efficient play in basketball. This needs to start and end with R.J. Davis putting pressure on State’s defense by attacking the rim and drawing contact early and often. Furthermore, Kevin Keatts may play nine players double-digit minutes, but their bench isn’t as talented as Carolina’s so getting into their bench, is another way that Carolina can win tonight's game. 

  3. Rebounding: After outrebounding Pittsburgh everyone wanted to know how Carolina would follow that performance against Clemson, which Carolina would also outrebound the Tigers by double digits. Just like against Clemson, UNC enters the game statistically the better rebounding team, and that needs to be reflected tonight on the basketball court. Armando Bacot has turned back the clock, becoming the dominant rebounding force we’re used to seeing from the program’s most decorated rebounder. But he’s also getting help from Harrison Ingram, Cormac Ryan, Seth Trimble, and others. If Carolina wins the rebounding battle, they’ll control the tempo of the game, another way that the Heels can win the game. 

Series History: 

  • Carolina is 164-80 all-time against the Wolfpack. The 164 wins are tied for the most against a single opponent with Wake Forest. In Raleigh, Carolina is 68-48, including 18-6 in PNC Arena. 


  • North Carolina - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.6 (10th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.1 (15th)

  • NC State - 63rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.3 (68th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (70th) 


  • North Carolina - 10th. 

  • NC State - 66th

TV Info:

  • Tonight’s game will tip at 8 PM on ESPN. 

The Four Corners Podcast:


bottom of page