Somehow, some way, the North Carolina Tar Heels found a way to stay perfect at home Wednesday night versus Boston College. Tomorrow, a team is traveling to Chapel Hill that would love nothing more than to tarnish that record.
With both squads having mediocre Januarys, a victory over a rival could set the tone for the crucial month of February. Here are a few things to watch as Carolina seeks to keep their home dominance alive against the Wolfpack.
Regain Dominance in the Paint
In the ugly victory over Boston College, UNC was outscored in the paint 30-18. Yet, the Tar Heels finished with a 44-38 rebounding advantage with Armando Bacot leading the way with 18 rebounds. However, his double-double streak came to a close after 10 games after scoring just six points against the Eagles.
More surprisingly, he scored just one bucket from the field. The other four points came from the free throw line. It was not a matter of bad looks. It just was not his night. The shots were not falling, and hopefully that does not linger past Wednesday night.
With Dawson Garcia’s unknown status and Brady Manek better suited to stretch the floor, even more pressure will be on Bacot to tally a double-double.
As for the team in red, NC State is above average in total rebounding, but one of the ACC’s worst teams in rebounding defense. In fact, the Wolfpack is just one of four teams in the conference with a negative rebounding margin.
Stifle the Stat Sheet Stuffer
A challenge for the UNC defense will be Dereon Seabron. The 6’7” sophomore guard is carrying the load for NC State. He is the third leading scorer in the conference at just over 19 points per game, and ranks second in the league with 9.29 rebounds per game.
In fact, he is the only guard among the top eight rebounders in the ACC. Throw in good assist and steals averages, and Seabron is on his way to landing a spot on one of the All-ACC teams.
The natural assignment for Seabron will be Carolina’s own stat sheet stuffer Leaky Black. Black’s stat lines from both the Virginia Tech and Boston College games are exactly what you want from the senior.
He is averaging 36 minutes, 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 blocks, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 turnovers in the last two games. All while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor, 60 percent from three, and 83 percent from the free throw line.
After steadily declining minutes throughout January, the bump in minutes during the last two games has led to better performances from Black.
Let’s see if he can keep trending in the right direction on both ends of the floor.
Get to the Line
With the lackluster offensive performances in the past two wins, a deciding factor has been UNC’s ability to get to the free throw line and make shots.
Carolina has the best free throw percentage in the ACC, and it has been a saving grace in recent games. Against Virginia Tech, UNC was 22-26 from the charity stripe, while going 20-25 versus Boston College. The opponents were just 7-11 and 6-8 from the line in each of those Carolina victories.
UNC’s offense in the paint, both from the big guys and the driving guards, leads to opportunities at the free throw line. No need to change that recipe now. However, brace yourself for the red tin foil hats if there is a lopsided free throw margin during and after Saturday's game.