The final week of the regular season is here, as Carolina continues their march to the NCAA Tournament. Entering today’s contest at NC State, UNC owns a 20-0 record and sits 3rd in the ACC with a 12-5 mark. The 20 wins under Hubert Davis, are more than Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams in their first season on the job, as he’s only the fourth coach in the last 25 years to win 20 games, his first season in the league. With all that in mind, Carolina is still among the Last Four In according to Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi from ESPN, meaning the team can’t suffer another bad loss if they hope to dance next month.
It’s safe to say that State hasn’t had the season they wanted to have or even expected to have. Losing Manny Bates really set this team back, and that’s why they are only 11-17, and 4-13 in conference play. The struggles this season, have led to questioning the future of Kevin Keatts in Raleigh, as the program has only made the NCAA Tournament once under his guidance. The lone bright spot for the Pack during this lost season has been the play of Dereon Seabron who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. Outside of Seabron, State relies on production from Jericole Hellems and Terquavion Smith, as both average double figures scoring.
It was a rout when these two teams met in Chapel Hill at the end of January, as UNC led 56-31 at the half, on their way to a convincing 100-80 win. The team shot 55% from the field, 56% from behind the arc, as Caleb Love led the way with 21 points. They’ll be looking to replicate that same success today.
It was obvious during Monday’s win over Louisville, that Carolina was fatigued, and was running on fumes. Hubert Davis has tightened his rotation even more, with starters playing well over 30 minutes, every time on the court. The 5 days off were much needed for a team, that needed to catch their breath, as they try to finish the season strong, and solidify their NCAA Tournament chances:
Match Their Intensity: NC State will be looking to salvage their season with a win over their biggest rival, and in the process, may also be playing for the future of their head coach. That’s a dangerous combination, especially for a team, vying to play in March Madness. Carolina has won 3 straight on the road (Louisville, Clemson, Virginia Tech), and will need to draw on those wins today, in what will be a hostile PNC Arena.
Contain Dribble-Drive: In the first matchup, Seabron was held to 1-6 shooting, but his aggressiveness driving the basket, forced the defense to collapse, and as a result, Hellems and Smith combined to score 59 points. The Heels have improved as the season has moved along, staying in front of the basketball, but when they don’t that’s where their defensive issues usually happen. State is going to be aggressively trying to get into the painted area, if Carolina can keep them out of the lane, it’s going to be hard for the Pack to keep pace scoring-wise with UNC.
Ball Movement: Carolina is going to get many different looks from NC State defensively today, and they’ll need to handle them well. In the first matchup, UNC assisted on 50% of their made baskets, a formula they need to try to replicate again today. Carolina has guys that can play in an isolation setting, but when the ball movement is crisp, that’s when we see this offense play at its best.
Series History: Carolina leads the all-time series 162-79, as they have won 34 of the last 39 contests. In Raleigh, Carolina is 67-47, including an impressive 17-5 in PNC Arena, despite losing 79-76 back in 2020.
UNC - 41st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.0 (25th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.5 (91st)
NC State - 129th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.9 (71st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 106.5 (233rd)
UNC - 41st.
NC State - 135th.
TV Info: Today’s game will start at 2 PM, on ESPN.
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