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History Making Heels and Wolfpack Prepare for Battle

With both NCSU and UNC coming off of thrilling home wins over Top 10 opponents, tonight’s showdown looks to be another great chapter in the rivalry’s rich history. Last year’s epic overtime battle was a modern era classic, and while many of the players return for tonight’s game, the primary factors are completely different.

The NCSU team has only recently found its identity. We knew they had a talented backcourt, but the the inconsistent play in the first dozen games really hampered the team. They keys to NCSU tonight are two-fold:

  • While point guard Cat Barber continues to bring outstanding athleticism but sputtering smarts to the game, transfer Trevor Lacey has become an all-conference level performer. Nobody is talking about how Lacey can do everything that T.J. Warren could do, but the truth is, he isn’t far from consistently being that level of player.
  • BJ Anya is a great shotblocker who is foul-prone. If he can stay on the court, NCSU’s frontcourt can match up to UNC’s.

State’s play is straightforward, but UNC’s is not. The first part of this 2015 season has been a trying one for UNC fans. The team, sporting with 6 McDonald’s All-Americans, has struggled to show any kind of cohesiveness and consistency. However dissecting the Heels reveals some things about this team that the babbling, mantra-driven local sports radio media fails to see.

  • Against the 5th most-difficult schedule in the country thus far, UNC has held opponents to only 0.78 points per possession. That’s the best defensive of any UNC team in the 19 years I’ve tracked this statistic . That’s a period where the school has won 2 National Championships, been to 5 Final Fours, and put dozens of players into the NBA. The goal is to keep teams below 0.85, and this team is surpassing the stated goal by an impressive amount.
  • UNC is averaging 4.5 more possession than opponents, the largest
    margin in the tracking period, too. This means that this team is the best rebounding UNC team in the last two decades.
  • UNC is the #4 team in the nation in defending the 3-pointer (and that’s including the stats from the Notre Dame game).
  • UNC is averaging 0.90 points per possession on offense. That ranks
    #15 in the 19-year period. (goal is to be >0.95)
  • UNC is turning the ball over on 14.4% of its possessions. That’s a fairly average performance compared to other years.
  • UNC is shooting 31% from 3, good for a #271 national ranking (345 ranked). They are #302 in 3 pointers made in each game.

With UNC’s weakness being outside shooting, one would think UNC would play to its strengths, however they are attempting 24% of their shots from beyond the arc. Usually Roy’s teams can shoot the 3 well, and only take about 22% of their shots from behind the arc.

The keys for UNC moving forward are establishing Joel Berry as the primary PG, moving Marcus Paige to the SG, narrowing the rotation, and running the offense through Kennedy Meeks.

Much attention is on Marcus Paige, however the statistics show that UNC falls apart offensively when Kennedy Meeks leaves the game. For UNC to win tonight, they need an excellent game out of Meeks, and to shut down the Pack offensively.

In the last 20 years NC State is 1-14 after beating Duke or UNC. I expect NCSU to struggle shooting the ball tonight, and for UNC to win this chapter.  Revenge for tonight’s loser comes in 5 weeks, though, where NCSU may play their best Dean Dome game in quite some time. We’ll see…


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  • Jason Said:

    Interesting strategy. I like the idea of Paige playing the role of a more creative Rashad McCants by moving him to SG. But why pass over Britt for Berry? Britt didn’t impress me much last year, but this year, he is playing much smarter.

  • tidalsearch Said:

    Can’t believe that Roy left Brice in the game with 4 fouls. If I remember correctly, we were up ten with 5 min and change when he fouled out and then I understand that UNC didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:18. Might have been nice to have him in the game there at the VERY end.

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