In the first game in Raleigh, NC State ran UNC out of the building and onto Edwards Mill Rd in the first half. Then the Wolfpack decided to tailgate in the parking lot and give up 57 points in the second half. UNC got is close but not nearly close enough. The pertinent stat from that game was the 39 fast break points UNC gave up. NC State flipped the script of the Heels subjecting them to the same type of offensive onslaught UNC has tortured other teams with for years.
So what will be different this time? First and foremost, UNC is running the much talked about smaller lineup. That lineup versus NC State's personnel brings some intriguing match-ups to the table. More importantly for UNC there is a sense of confidence about playing with this lineup. UNC played Duke close, beat Virginia with a stellar offensive performance and won at Georgia Tech in an ugly game. A win in this game would certainly have the season not only moving in the right direction but doing so with increasing momentum.
In terms of UNC's NCAA Tournament resume, there is a need for quality wins to shore matters up. The Heels have not acquitted themselves against good teams until a tough loss at Duke and win over Virginia. Snagging a win over NC State which is currently in the top 30 of the RPI would be a nice addition to the profile. Besides that, it is NC State and the loss in Raleigh was a slap across the face. The Wolfpack broke a 13 game winning streak in the rivalry for UNC and did so in humiliating fashion. Needless to say all the intangibles should break UNC's way from needing a resume building win to exacting revenge to restoring order with a split in the season series. Not to mention UNC is 12-1 at home while the Wolfpack have not fared nearly as well on the road. With UNC's recent improved play the Dean Dome will most likely sport the best crowd of the season so far.
It would be overstating to say the season hangs in the balance but there is an undercurrent that this is the beginning of a run that will bring the season closer to expectations. But only if they win.
UNC 88 NCSU 79