Where: RBC Center, Raleigh, NC
When: Tuesday, February 21st, 8:00 PM
TV: ACC Network
Records: UNC 23-4, 10-2 ACC; NCSU 18-9, 7-5 ACC
The last throes of a great rivalry?
I really would like to see UNC come in and spend the first half beating NC State like a rented drum. I don't think that is going to happen but I can dream right? UNC's penchant for slow starts(especially on the road) and my expectation that after two losses the Wolfpack will show some spirit in the first half probably precludes to possibility. However, it would be a nice way to start the game and not for the reasons you might think.
You see, ever since referee Karl Hess ejected former Pack players Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta from the game vs FSU on Saturday, Wolfpack fans have been up in arms. NCSU AD Debbie Yow has been up in arms looking for an explanation which didn't really come until Monday. In the meantime, a plan was hatched to honor the 1989 NC State team on the always important 23rd anniversary of their last first place finish in the ACC regular season(because they don't believe in regular seasons titles or at least ones UNC claims.) Why that team? Because Corchiani and and Gugliotta were members and it was the last NCSU basketball team to do anything of significance. I suppose they could have just honored Corchiani and Gugliotta with some sort of profile in courage award or medal for exceptional heroism in the face of persecution from a basketball official. Then again that would be really stupid. So instead NCSU scrambled to bring the 1989 team in for Tuesday night so they could trot Corchiani and Gugliotta onto the court for a big round of applause from the Wolfpack faithful. I guess this is NCSU's way of sticking it to Karl Hess or the ACC. The whole things strikes me as rather comical.
My point is this: UNC needs to make whatever goes prior to the game the highlight of the evening. In fact UNC should come out and blow the Pack's doors off in the first half to destroy all the hype built up in the hockey rink from the pregame ceremony . Granted, UNC is not known for big starts but NCSU might be an exception. Roy Williams hates those guys, John Henson is still looking for a renter to occupy the space he owns in C.J. Leslie's head and Harrison Barnes is approaching full activation mode. Not to mention, Tyler Zeller has been quiet for the past week. Too quiet. This game could be a sign the team is really starting to gel and playing at a high level vs NCSU would carry all sorts of fringe benefits for the fans.
There are a lot of basketball reasons why UNC can and should dominate the game because above all others this was and is a bad match-up for NC State. UNC's interior scoring and rebounding edge is very difficult for the Wolfpack to overcome. If Harrison Barnes played like he did last week and Reggie Bullock joins him in hitting some threes, UNC should cruise. Of course there are a few reasons why NCSU can make it a competitive game overall including three point shooting and Lorenzo Brown playing better than he did in Chapel Hill. NCSU used Alex Johnson and Brown together versus Duke and doing so versus UNC would be a more difficult backcourt to guard. I also think some concern is warranted as far as the officiating goes. Not that I think the officials in this game will be under special instructions from the league office, however it would not surprise me to see a tightly called game which is to say UNC needs to be smart on defense.
In the end, I expect a quasi-interesting game in the first half and UNC to assert control in the second for a 8-10 win which means it will go much like the rest of UNC's recent road games have gone. However, a blowout would be nice. Kendall Marshall breaking Chris Corchiani's ACC single game assist mark of 20 would be hilarious and anything along the lines of questionable officiating in favor of UNC would be comedy gold on Pack Pride after the game.
UNC 78 NCSU 68