Poor N.C. State. If only the season had started in February, they'd be hanging right in there:
Alas, the season started in November, and the Wolfpack are 14-9, 4-6 in conference and a miserable 2-6 on the road. So on paper at least, State doesn't stand a chance. Still, February to date has been State's best four game stretch since December, so it's worth looking at exactly how they did it.
The NC Central game, of course, was a gimme for the Wolfpack, and they won handily. As for the rest, the biggest changes are that State picked up the pace and found an offense. It's odd; for his entire tenure in Raleigh, Sidney Lowe has maintained he wants to run an up-tempo, fast game, and for years the Wolfpack have finished the season with one of the slowest paced teams in the league. The same was true this year, as by the end of January State was running the slowest tempo in the ACC. Then comes the last three games, with the most possessions for the Wolfpack all year, which result in two wins and an overtime loss to Virginia Tech.
The good news for the Wolfpack is that Carolina will certainly love a fast-paced game. The bad news is that last season fastest game for State was the blowout loss to UNC in January. If there's a chance this outcome will be any different, most of the credit will be thrown at Tracy Smith, who although only seventh on the team in minutes takes the highest percentage of shots per time on the floor than anyone else on the team. Section Six certainly credits him with the turn around, and he's hit double figures in the last three ACC games, after managing it only once in the first seven. It's just another reason why it's good to have Tyler Zeller back; it boosts the interior defense and puts another set of fresh legs on the court against a team that only runs eight deep.
UNC should handle this team easily, resurgence aside, but State has thrown wrenches in the works before, and the Heels need to not come out flat. The home crowd and the building momentum after Duke and Miami should take care of that.