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North Carolina State
College Basketball Pick
This has been an interesting season to say the least for both of these schools. North Carolina wasn't supposed to be as good as they normally are, but they weren't supposed to be this bad. NC State was the preseason favorite to win the ACC, but they have now lost two of their last three games, neither to top schools.
The Tar Heels have been in a funk for most of the year. They were beaten easily by Butler and Indiana and then were destroyed by a Texas team that's currently 8-10. UNC started off ACC play with two straight losses, on the road at Virginia and at home against Miami (FL). Since, they have a few solid wins, but nothing over the top. Their win last weekend over Maryland is probably their best win of the season.
The Wolfpack had a slow start to the year starting off with an inexplicable 20-point loss to Oklahoma State. They also lost at Michigan, but you can't fault them for that. After that, they compiled 10 straight wins finalized by a huge home win over No. 1 Duke. Since that game, they have lost at Maryland and Wake Forest and barely beat Clemson at home. NC State was up by 12 points at halftime on the Demon Deacons in their last game and they let that slip away, giving up 51 second half points.
The only thing looking up for the Wolfpack in this game is playing at home. They still haven't lost in Raleigh all season. Meanwhile, North Carolina is 2-3 on the road with their wins coming against Long Beach State and Florida State.
NC State sits a half-game above UNC in the ACC with a 4-2 record. A loss here will make it very difficult for the Tar Heels to finish the season near the top. They still have a back-to-back schedule on the road at Miami (FL) and Duke which probably won't turn out well for them. The Wolfpack still have a solid shot at winning the regular season conference title. A big reason for that is they don't have to go on the road to face the Hurricanes.
While North Carolina is still a top scoring team in the nation, they have actually had problems putting the ball in the bucket in ACC play. Even though they're averaging over 78 points per game for the season, they failed to break the 62-point barrier in three in-conference games. Their best player all year has probably been James Michael McAdoo, but he has a major problem turning the ball over. Power forwards usually don't average three turnovers per game. He still leads the team in points and rebounds, though. Reggie Bullock has been their other model of consistency. He's picked up his game in ACC play and is a deadly shooter from outside. After those two, who knows where the scoring will come from. P.J. Hairston had 23 points at Florida, but only managed three against Maryland. Dexter Strickland is purely a passing guard and rarely takes shots, but his scoring has been down lately more so than usual.
The main thing NC State needs to worry about is working the defensive glass. They can't let UNC get second chance points. Even though they lost all three games to the Tar Heels last year, in their final two games against each other, C.J. Leslie was unstoppable posting 24 points at home and 22 points in the conference tourney. Leslie is the Wolfpack's leading scorer this year and he'll have to repeat those 20-point performances if NC State wants to win. He has struggled lately, averaging less than 10 points per game in the last three after getting 25 points against Duke. Of course, he'll need some help. T.J. Warren has picked up Leslie's slack lately and Lorenzo Brown has been solid. Maybe a bigger question will be if Scott Wood can hit the long ball. He's only shooting 24% from beyond the arc in his last three games, but still at 42% for the season. Big man Richard Howell will be the Tar Heels biggest problem on the boards as he averages over 10 per game.
North Carolina is playing better as of late, while NC State has kind of fallen off. No matter, the Wolfpack will still get the advantage playing at PNC Arena.
Predicted Score - NC St 82 North Carolina 78
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