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UNC vs. NC State: Three Things to Watch

The Tar Heels will take on State in what’s a big game for multiple reasons.

Pittsburgh v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

After the frustration of Monday night’s loss on a short turnaround, UNC will have had a nice little break before they return to action tomorrow, for what’s set to be a big game. Tomorrow, the Tar Heels are set to renew their battles against NC State, as they hit the road and head to Raleigh.

Here are some things we’ll be keeping an eye on tomorrow afternoon.

Time to Bracket Watch

UNC’s struggles this season have left them in a position where we have to keep an eye on where they stand in the various NCAA Tournament projections.

Their lack of truly great wins have the Tar Heels in a position where on Joe Lunardi’s projections on ESPN, they’re one of the last four teams in, which would put them in the First Four in Dayton. They’re similarly positioned in the Bracket Matrix’s composite of all the people who put out mock NCAA Tournament fields.

While there will be other chances after Sunday’s game, they are running out of chances to put up genuinely good regular season wins. A road victory over the NET’s #38 team and an opponent who’s currently solidly in NC State in the field would be a Quad 1 win and would help out quite a bit. It’s not must win in that a loss ends the season, but it’s definitely in the “really need the win” territory.

Handling the atmosphere

Road games in Raleigh almost always have a spicy atmosphere, but this year’s meeting could be interesting. State fans were especially peeved after the earlier meeting in Chapel Hill.

For one, there was the Terquavion Smith injury which saw him leave on a stretcher after a foul by Leaky Black. Thankfully, Smith ended up being mostly okay, and State coach Kevin Keatts even went on record saying that the foul — which saw Black ejected — was just a basketball play and not dirty. However, the visuals of him leaving the floor on a stretcher were visceral and may be fresh in State fans’ minds.

Beyond that, Wolfpack fans were just peeved at the officiating at that game in general. The final free throw count in the game ended up being 39-12 in the Tar Heels’ favor. While as UNC fans, we’ll make the (valid) point that UNC is a team that often draws a lot of fouls via our playing style and NC State is a team that commits a lot of fouls, that didn’t stop the complaining about the disparity.

All of that is to say, that things could be extra spicy on Saturday considering what happened last time out.

Can UNC even shoot moderately okay?

On Monday, the Tar Heels played a good Miami team fairly close, but came up short in the end. The main culprit in the loss was that Carolina shot a putrid 5-31 — just 16.1% — from three. Had they even made a mediocre percentage instead of a horrific one, they could’ve very easily flipped the eight-point final margin in their favor.

Even more frustrating was that the performance came on the back of them knocking down 15 threes in their previous game against Clemson. The truth of this team — as bared out by the rest of their season — is somewhere in the middle of that. However, we need to hope they more learned the lessons of the Clemson game and what worked in helping them shoot a good percentage of threes. They had 17 assists on 32 made field goals that day, compared to six on 29 against Miami.