The North Carolina Tar Heels may have been counted out of being crowned ACC champions after beginning conference play 0-3, but now they have the opportunity to get back to a .500 record against in-state rival North Carolina State. Aside from Duke, the rivalry with NC State is one of the most prominent in Tar Heels’ history. Not only do they have the upper hand in the rivalry at stake, but their whole season is at stake as well.
Both team’s are struggling this season, but whoever comes out victorious in tomorrow afternoon’s game will receive a great amount of momentum moving forward. NC State enters the contest with a 14-7 record on the season and 4-4 in the ACC. They are yet to win a statement game thus far in the season, so they are without a doubt going to come out firing against their arch rival Tar Heels. NC State is led in scoring by sophomore forward T.J. Warren with 22.5 points per game, and he also leads the team in rebounding with 7.3 per game. Other than Warren, Anthony Barber and Desmond Lee are the only two other double-digit scorers with about 10 points each per game. Also, they are a team that is not made up of much height which will give the Tar Heels an edge on the boards. James Michael McAdoo is on a roll right now, and if he can just keep up the pace then he will annihilate NC State’s frontcourt. Speaking of the frontcourt, Kennedy Meeks has been a rebounding ace as of late, and his use of head fakes near the basket is allowing him to either get to the rim and finish or get to the free-throw line. Marcus Paige is finally back to his scoring ways which is a great sign for Tar Heels fans, and along with Leslie McDonald in the backcourt, the team’s shooting should be lights out.
Not only do the two teams have similar records coming into the game, but they are both entering the game with a great deal of momentum. NC State is currently nursing a three-game win streak while the Tar Heels currently have a two-game run. Whoever wins this game will walk away with twice the momentum they already have, and the loser has a very high chance of losing all of theirs. This is a bitter rivalry, but it has been a rivalry dominated by the Tar Heels in recent seasons. They are 4-1 in their past five matchups against NC State, and all but one of the victories was by a double-digit margin.
One more win and the Tar Heels’ season may turn around completely. For a team that began ACC play horribly, the fact that they are even in contention for .500 record in the conference is a plus. If they can manage to keep their momentum rolling starting at the jump ball then under no circumstances should they lose to their in-state rival. The Dean Dome will be filled with fans anxious to see their once struggling team climb back up to the top, and a victory will help them do just that.