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Game Preview: #5 UNC vs NC State

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina vs NC State, 12:00 PM, ESPN

The Tar Heels return to action after a week long break looking to move to 5-0 in the ACC against an NC State team that is literally heading in the complete opposite direction.

Roy Williams said on Friday junior center Kennedy Meeks had a "good" practice and barring any setbacks would likely return to the starting lineup. If that's the case it will make another step towards UNC getting the house back in order. Meeks played just 14 minutes versus Syracuse scoring eight points. The minutes limitation was both by design in his first game back and a product of how effective the Brice Johnson/Isaiah Hicks tandem was against the Orange zone.

It stands to reason if Meeks returns to the starting lineup, his minutes will go up. Last season, Meeks was fairly effective in two games versus the Wolfpack frontline. In Raleigh, Meeks scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. During the return game in Chapel Hill which UNC lost, Meeks was one of two Tar Heels in double figures scoring 12 points to go with 14 rebounds. In four career games against NC State, Meeks has never had fewer than 10 rebounds in a game averaging 11 per game.  Meeks likely won't be quite to top form but if history has shown anything, he does rebound well against the Wolfpack.

Considering UNC is heavily favored to win this game the real value(besides the league win) is getting Meeks acclimated to game action. It also stands as an opportunity to get some overall aspects of UNC's game tuned up. Defense is one area that continues to trouble the team's overall prospects for March. This type of game could serve as an opportunity to really hone in on the defensive end.

It also could be a chance to get a player like Justin Jackson going from the three point line. NC State's perimeter defense is the giving type and Jackson could use a breakthrough type of game similar to the one Harrison Barnes had against the Wolfpack in 2011. That game, in which Barnes scored 25 points, was the first time the freshman forward looked the part of top overall recruit in the country. If the game today can be that kind of catalyst for Justin Jackson, it would be a step in the right direction.

UNC 101 NC State 58