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UNC vs. NC State: Three Things to Watch

I’ll take a number five with a side of biscuits, please and thanks.

North Carolina v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We are now just two games away from UNC’s regular season finale at Duke, and each game is just as important as the next. The Heels have found themselves in quite a situation when it comes to their ability to earn an at-large NCAA bid, and the reality of the situation is likely that they have to win out the rest of their schedule AND make a respectable run in the ACC Tournament. Sure, we’re being told by Joe Lunardi that they are in right now, but let’s be honest: losing against NC State or Syracuse blows all of that up with a quickness. This brings us to tomorrow’s game.

UNC will travel to Raleigh to take on NC State in PNC Arena. The Wolfpack have been in a bad way this entire month, only winning one of their six games. The Heels dismantled them when they visited the Dean Smith Center 100-80, and really the final score fails to tell the tale of what was a complete butt-kicking. So, how can things be different tomorrow? Honestly, a lot of that depends on NC State’s end. Let’s discuss three things to keep an eye on during tomorrow’s game.

Can Dereon Seabron bounce back?

Let’s be honest: there are probably a good amount of UNC fans who only got to watch one NC State game this season, and it’s when they played the Heels in the Dean Dome. If you are one of those people, then it is probably hard to believe that Dereon Seabron is the Wolfpacks’ points, rebounds, assists, and steals leader. As of right now, Seabron is averaging 18 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, and has been a standout in what has been a pretty miserable season for NC State. That is, of course, with the exception of his performance against the Tar Heels.

Against UNC, Seabron finished the game with two points, three rebounds, two assists, and zero steals. He was 1-6 from the field, and wasn’t even able to make it to the free throw line. To put his performance into perspective: it was the only game this season in which he failed to score in double digits. If NC State wants their best chance of beating UNC, Seabron has to step up big time and help out Terquavion Smith and Jericole Hellems, or this game will go as sideways as it did the last time these two teams met.

What energy level will PNC Arena have?

This usually isn’t a point of discussion when it comes to any game that involves UNC, but it’s worth bringing up because of how this season has gone for NC State. As I mentioned earlier, the Wolfpack have only won one game this month, and each loss has been awful. They now hold L’s that were hand delivered to them by last place Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt, and Clemson, all of whom are with the Wolfpack at the bottom of the ACC standings. Things couldn’t be worse for Kevin Keatts & Co., and my understanding is that NC State fans are starting to enter the apathy portion of our broadcast. That brings us to tomorrow afternoon.

Moreso than Dereon Seabron playing well, what NC State really needs is for PNC Arena to be electric. It’s really hard to have said atmosphere when fans feel like they were jumped in an alley behind Chili’s multiple times, but if there’s one thing that Wolfpack fans are good at, it is making sure UNC feels the hatred. I can’t imagine a world where the ball tips, the atmosphere is sub-par, but NC State pulls off a win anyway. Their fans are going to have to make this extremely tough for the Tar Heels, or this will be extremely tough to watch.

Keeping Bacot in the game

Let’s finally shift gears to what UNC can do to win this game: in the game against Louisville, Armando Bacot had a really good first half, and then in the second half he was shut down by the Cardinals. They managed to do that with a lot of physical play, they disrupted passes, and they overall caused chaos every time the Heels tried to feed him. Thankfully the Heels were able to get the job done regardless, but this isn’t a situation that anybody should want to repeat.

I said in my three things learned article that I didn’t find the situation with Bacot in the second half to be alarming, but it really does change the game when Bacot isn’t able to get to the rim. The good news is that Bacot had zero issues with State the last time these two teams played, finishing with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocks. The keys to repeating this performance will be better passing from the guards, other players knocking down shots from the perimeter to spread the floor, and Bacot being more secure with the ball. I’m confident that the Louisville game was more of an outlier than anything, but it would just be a good to see him hang 20+ on NC State. What? Tell me you wouldn’t enjoy that as well.