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Preview: UNC vs NC State

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina vs NC State, 1:00 PM, ESPN2

For the 225th time in school history and the 23rd time under Roy Williams, UNC faces rival NC State looking to get back to .500 in ACC play. After a 0-3 start to the league schedule and sitting at 1-4 a little less than two weeks ago, the Tar Heels have won two straight including one on the road at Georgia Tech. This game is the third in a five game stretch that could effectively save UNC's NCAA Tournament hopes or at the very least get the Tar Heels to a place where there margin of error is more tolerable.

By far the most interesting question is how UNC handles NC State's and the ACC's leading scorer T.J. Warren. The sophomore small forward has been very good most of the season and shown the capability to score using everything from three pointers to drives to the basket. Roy Williams indicated J.P. Tokoto would draw Warren as his primary defensive assignment putting a great deal of pressure on UNC's starting small forward to contain one of the best scorers in the conference. Of course there is the school of thought that Warren getting his isn't an issue as long as no one else on the Wolfpack roster has a big game.

Along those lines Anthony "Cat" Barber presents a problem for this Tar Heel team with his speed. Barber is one of the quicker players in the conference and will test UNC's perimeter defenders on the ball and UNC's interior defenders in rotation. The caveat here is Barber has shown a penchant for not making great decisions when he gets into the lane. When he focuses more on being a facilitator he can be effective since he draws the defense with his penetration. That isn't always the case and Barber's decision making has been an issue at points for the Wolfpack this season leading to more Tyler Lewis in key stretches. NC State doesn't shoot the three well but has had players like Lewis and Ralston Turner hit threes at crucial times in the recent three game winning streak.

On the offensive end, James Michael McAdoo will look to continue his recent tear. McAdoo is averaging 15.3 ppg in ACC play and 18.6 ppg in UNC's three conference wins. McAdoo's aggressiveness has been a huge benefit more so for the tone it sets with his teammates than anything else. The play of Kennedy Meeks also bears watching. Meeks' improved play has been a nice boost for the offense but the freshman will be tested against NCSU's bigger frontline. However UNC is really at its best when Marcus Paige plays well. Paige has struggled in the first half of games and as a result UNC doesn't quite get off to as strong as a start as it could. Getting Paige going early could help UNC seize early control of a game against a team that hasn't won a game in Chapel Hill since Roy Williams arrived on campus to run the program.

UNC 74 NCSU 61