The battle for the state of North Carolina has been dominated by the Tar Heels, as they’ve won five straight over N.C. State and nine of the past 10 overall. But the new-look Wolfpack have what it takes to put that streak in jeopardy.
Among qualifying players, N.C. State’s Manny Bates had the most blocked shots on a per-minute basis of any player in college basketball as a freshman last season. He leads interior defense that entered the week ranked 14th in the country in fewest points per possession allowed.
On the other end, North Carolina is perennially one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The Tar Heels rank eighth in the country in rebound rate so far this season and have finished each of the past six seasons in the top 20 among Division I teams in that category.
North Carolina has a lot of experience in the post, but a lack of it in the backcourt which will be tested against a Wolfpack unit that is ranked third in the country in the percentage of defensive possessions in which it forces a steal. The Tar Heels are 229th among Division I teams in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Factoring in North Carolina’s inability to knock down 3-pointers — the Tar Heels are ranked 292nd in 3-point shooting percentage — it should lead to N.C. State changing the tide in what has been a lopsided rivalry in recent years.
The play: N.C. State, -1.