North Carolina Tarheels
College Basketball Pick
North Carolina opened the season as the No. 1 team in the country and it’s looking like they deserve that spot once again. The Tar Heels have won eight straight Games, which includes Four in ACC play. The most impressive has been their last two road wins at Florida State and Syracuse.
That’s bad news for a struggling NC State team that has really fallen off the map and has yet to win a Conference Game. The Wolfpack have had opportunities – losing their first three ACC Games by five points or less – but haven’t done the needed work and lost disappointing Games at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. At the moment, NC State is looking from the outside in to the NCAA Tournament, a year after reaching the Sweet 16 and taking down No. 1 seed Villanova. They were at a low point Wednesday night, falling at home to Florida State and now sit in the basement of the ACC.
Going for the Wolfpack is that they upset North Carolina last year in this situation, winning 58-46 in Chapel Hill. Doing so again will take a monumental effort considering each team’s current situation.
NC State has the size to deal with UNC again, but its poor shooting and inability to move the ball continues to be a problem. No one on the team shoots above 34% from range, while they have one of the worst assist rates in the country. The length of North Carolina is an obvious issue and NC State no longer has Ralston Turner or Trevor LAcey to deal with that.
Instead, the Wolfpack have been almost exclusively Cat Barber’s team as he’s averaging 22.5 points per Game. His numbers are great, but they aren’t producing wins, which is all that matters. He still lacks a knockdown shot and that has limited him from becoming an even better player. For this team to get back to last year’s levels, their bigs need to play a larger role. That means improvement from players like BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman, but neither of those guys has taken the needed step for the Wolfpack.
Nevertheless, these teams are similar in the size department and a reason they battled in two closely-fought Games last year. North Carolina usually just imposes its size on other teams and dominates that way, but that’s something they can’t do against NC State. The Wolfpack have the bodies to deal with Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks down low among others. Even at the guard spot, Barber can keep up with Marcus Paige and will keep him plenty busy on the defensive end.
But the difference between these teams is consistency and depth. The Tar Heels have six different players that average at least 10 points per Game and that’s not even counting Nate Britt and Theo Pinson, who are good players in their own right. The Wolfpack have Four guys above the 10 points per Game mark with Anya and Freeman barely at five points per Game. Without production off the bench, NC State simply doesn’t have enough against better teams.
NC State needs some wins fast and they’d like nothing more than to win at Chapel Hill again. Of course, that will take their best Game of the season to do so.
North Carolina 94 NC State 74