NC State vs UNC: A battle of unranked, middle of the road ACC teams

Maybe the Red Blazer will produce some more magic tonight against the Heels...

Maybe the Red Blazer will produce some more magic tonight against the Heels...

The more I’ve thought about this game, the more I’ve started to think it’s a bit underwhelming. If you look at it from an outsiders’ perspective, it’s not even really that exciting. UNC limps in at 12-7 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, reeling from three straight losses in the last 10 days. NC State comes in 13-7 and 2-4 in conference play and is coming off a blowout loss to Maryland Saturday. Can you say not interesting?

But then I stop myself and remember, this is NC STATE vs NORTH CAROLINA! Records, rankings and conference standings don’t matter. Too bad they don’t, because the fact that UNC is out of the Top 25 and currently No. 11 in the ACC is a great talking point. Anyway, moving on.

Tonight’s battle between the Heels and Wolfpack is crucial on many levels, and not simply because it’s a rivalry game (check out tobaccordshow’s post on the importance of the rivalry). Carolina needs a victory in the worst way and has to be viewing the game as a must-win. NC State could pull closer to .500 in league play with a win and pick up its second victory over a Big Four rival in the last six days.

On that note, this Carolina team is extremely beatable. For the first time in a long time the Heels look vulnerable. Adam Gold and Joe Ovies talk some about the mindset of Carolina fans in this video on WRAL.

An important factor for tonight’s game will be the health of UNC big man Ed Davis. Roy Williams said Monday that Davis was “very questionable” to play. If he can’t go or is ineffective, NC State’s potential for winning the game goes way up. It’s tough to know if this is a little bit of gamesmanship by Williams, but regardless, Davis’ health is important.

Here’s a piece on the rivalry from Tony Haynes.

NC State men’s basketball coach Sidney Lowe said the Wolfpack had a very good practice on Monday morning, but given the fact that rival North Carolina is next up on the schedule, he didn’t expect anything less.

“If you can’t get ready to play in this game on either side, then there’s a problem,” Lowe said. “You’re at the wrong school and made a bad choice. It’s as simple as that.”

And desperation could and should be in plentiful supply when the Tar Heels (12-7, 1-3) and Wolfpack (13-7, 2-4) face off for the 216th time at the RBC Center on Tuesday night. Tip-off time is set for 9:05 p.m.

Following last Wednesday’s emotional and well-played 88-74 victory over nationally ranked Duke, NC State came back down to earth and tasted a little humble pie over the weekend, falling big at Maryland, 88-64. On Tuesday, the Wolfpack will be looking to knock off Duke and North Carolina in the same season for the first time since 2003.

Here’s your keys to the game:

Force turnovers/don’t commit them

As is the case with every game, turnovers will be key. NC State has been much better recently taking care of the ball and the proof is in the pudding. In its last three times out, against two ranked teams and ACC leader Maryland, NC State has turned it over 31 times combined. Against Duke, Javi Gonzalez, Julius Mays and Farnold Degand turned the ball over only three times and handed out 14 assists. If the Wolfpack can take care of the ball Tuesday night it should be in good shape. Conversely, if the Pack can force turnovers by pressuring the relatively inexperienced back court of the Heels it will be a huge plus.

Get Tracy Smith involved early and often

Teams have consistently doubled Tracy Smith throughout the year and he’s continued to produce points and rebounds. NC State should look to get him involved early and attempt to get Deon Thompson or whoever the Heels decide to put on him in foul trouble.

Force Carolina to shoot the ball from the outside

Aside from Will Graves, who is streaky at best, Carolina has no credible threat from outside. Carolina wants to pound the ball inside and get its big men involved. The Wolfpack will need to be sharp with its double teams and  rotations on the defensive end throughout the night. That being said, NC State can’t get in foul trouble.

Feed off the crowd

The crowd at the RBC Center Tuesday night could be a big factor in the momentum and eventual outcome of the game. Watching the Duke game last week it was obvious the team fed off the noise. If NC State can get a lead early and play the style of game it did against the Blue Devils last week, the crowd could be huge.

I’m excited for another opportunity to see the Wolfpack play. I don’t know what it is, but I like watching this team and watching them take on Carolina is certainly a great way to spend a Tuesday night in January.

For a little more discussion, there are a few related threads on our message boards that you can easily access by clicking here.

Check Twitter during the game. Assuming AT&T’s 3G service is fine, I’ll post some stuff.

09-10 Basketball Big Four Rivals Sidney Lowe

56 Responses to NC State vs UNC: A battle of unranked, middle of the road ACC teams

  1. RSP123 01/26/2010 at 8:27 AM #

    As I stated in a previous post, this is big for NCSU. A win that could springboard us to a solid season and a good foundation for the future. (Not to mention adding to the Heel’s desperation) A loss and this team has lost a golden opportunity to begin to prove the critics, experts, naysayers wrong. I am waiting for a leader to emerge on this team and carry the Pack to victory! I would love to see that leader tonight! Go Pack!

  2. GAWolf 01/26/2010 at 8:47 AM #

    Nice work, Derek.

    Rest assured someone in baby blue will have a career night against us. Never fails. It will likely be the least-expected player to do so. The question will be whether we can recover from that, keep our chins up, maintain any momentum we’ve created in the last few minutes of the first half, and play with intensity throughout the game.

    But I stand behind my 110% confidence that SOMEONE on UNC’s team will score the most points he’s ever scored in a game, tonight, against us.


  3. GAWolf 01/26/2010 at 8:53 AM #

    I posted this in the forums, but to me this is the nuts and bolts of the meaning of this game:

    This game is HUGE as a litmus for Sid’s progress. Herb never could beat Carolina… even when they were having a down year. We missed SO MANY opportunities to gain ground on them during the decade Herb was here.

    Simply put, Sid CANNOT let the same happen to him or his years here will be even more so tumultuous and thus likely “few.”

  4. JT 01/26/2010 at 9:06 AM #

    State should win this game. And I think they will. Maryland was totally predictable. But of late there has been a spark present that has been missing since V’s days with the possible exception of what Hodge provided in spite of Sendek. UM was a letdown, but again, it wasn’t surprising. I don’t see this game as a litmus test but rather as a game State will win because they simply should. I foresee a game similar to Duke, with State getting a lead then weathering a storm- I just hope the key play isn’t a 28 or so footer by Javi, though that would be nice if it happened. I’m about ready for Wood to break out for 20 and I could see it happening.

  5. 61Packer 01/26/2010 at 9:10 AM #

    Whoever plays better defense will probably win this one.

  6. ncsufan13 01/26/2010 at 9:25 AM #

    Winning is possible, but after the beatdown we got from the Terps I’d be surprised to see a competently coached or played game. Whenever we get close to hitting .500 in the conference Sid inexplicably finds a way to lose.

  7. NCMike 01/26/2010 at 9:30 AM #

    State by 20 on this one. The boys are finally starting to believe in themselves and they know the smurfs are having problems. Throw in no Ed Davis (or a tentative Ed Davis at best) against our beefier front line and solidly better ball handling and shooting backcourt and we go up early and hold on in the second half then run it back up to around 20 in the final 4 minutes. Finally!

  8. Class of 2009 01/26/2010 at 9:34 AM #

    This game is fickle. If we lose and Carolina wins, it means almost nothing significant or radical. NC State is still a mediocre team with a coach who hasn’t materialized progress into wins (necessary for job security) and Carolina remains a threat even when they are bad.

    However, if we win, this game could be a signature game that sees Carolina continuing a downward spiral to a more terrestrial court with the rest of the ACC while it could see NC State pull itself into a competitive field with “the greats” the way the ACC had been for 3/4 of a century.

  9. DRW 01/26/2010 at 9:35 AM #


    UNC 72
    NCSU 65

  10. packbackr04 01/26/2010 at 9:38 AM #

    “But I stand behind my 110% confidence that SOMEONE on UNC’s team will score the most points he’s ever scored in a game, tonight, against us. ”

    i agree, Will Graves is gonna drop like 30 on us. he will hit everything he looks at tonight… mark it down

  11. Thinkpack17 01/26/2010 at 9:40 AM #

    If we beat UNC by 20 those kids will burn an effigy on Roy’s lawn.

  12. RickJ 01/26/2010 at 9:57 AM #

    “On Tuesday, the Wolfpack will be looking to knock off Duke and North Carolina in the same season for the first time since 2003.”

    Lowe beat Duke & UNC in his first season (2007). The Duke win was in the ACC Tournament but still in the 2007 season.

  13. ryebread 01/26/2010 at 10:02 AM #

    There are some things that I believe to be true about tonight:
    – Ed Davis will be just fine. The rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. He’ll play his best game of the season tonight.
    – Will Graves will be “on” and drop in at least 20 and 5 to 6 three point baskets.
    – We’ll be playing 5 on 8 on our home court when you throw in the officiating.
    – UNC is going to come out and try to absolutely crush us if they possibly can.

    We’d better play with intensity from the get go, focus on our defense, not turn the ball over and have one of our role players (Horner, Wood, Mays) contribute or we’re going to lose. I hate to say it, but I think UNC gets this one. Things just set up too well for them.

  14. D_Medlin 01/26/2010 at 10:10 AM #


    I’m sure Sidney starts actively searching for ways to lose once we even get within shouting distance of .500.

    Y’all kill me.

  15. MA Wolfpack 01/26/2010 at 10:18 AM #

    You guys must know more than Vegas since they have the Heels as 2 point favorites. UNC has the better team…NCSU is at home and plays harder than the Heels. It should be a good game, but I’ll take talent to win this one. UNC 82 NCSU 77

  16. ncsu05mit10 01/26/2010 at 10:19 AM #

    I could really expect anything with this game, and will try to not get too worked up about it. Maryland was exactly what I didn’t want to see– I was expecting an L, but was hoping for somewhere around 8 pts where we would still be in it. It was the kind of egg-laying that was very Mike O’Cain-esque.

    Sid’s still got to prove to me that Duke wasn’t a fluke game. I remember there being a lot of discussion how “NC State was back” after the UNC win and ACC run of 2007.

    I think I’ll chalk up a 12 point loss. Scott Wood takes about 3 open looks. Javi in early foul trouble. (Please prove me 100% wrong)

  17. ncsufan13 01/26/2010 at 10:23 AM #

    @ D_Medlin,

    We’ve never had a winning conference record in the ACC at any point in any season since Sid has been coaching. The closest we got to doing that was in 2007-08 when we made it to 4-4 before losing every single following conference game that season. It may sound harsh, but that’s how Sid’s record here has played out.

  18. BamaPack 01/26/2010 at 10:23 AM #

    My gut tells me we either win or lose this one.

  19. packplantpath 01/26/2010 at 10:37 AM #

    Tracy Smith has 4 fouls for 3/4 of the second half effectively shutting his game down. Wood has a breakout game and scores 28, but can’t make up for the miscues of Javi & Degand who combine for 14 turnovers in the first half.


    Honestly, it depends on what teams show up. UNC should run away with it based on talent. Fortunately they are lost this year, I just hope they stay that way.

  20. D_Medlin 01/26/2010 at 10:51 AM #

    That may be, but to say Sidney inexplicably “finds” a way to lose, as if he was trying to, is laughable.

    I’m talking more about the mindset than the reality of Sid’s tenure. That’s all.

  21. Sweet jumper 01/26/2010 at 11:03 AM #

    If we limit TO’s like we did against Duke and beef up the perimeter defense, I feel a win. The Pack needs to feed off of the crowd energy, help Wood get at least 15 open looks and establish Tracy and Howell inside. I want Roy to leave in a straight jacket after trying to have the entire RBC evacuated for yelling negative comments at his players! Go Pack!

  22. ncsufan13 01/26/2010 at 11:12 AM #

    @ D_Medlin,

    I was just trying to emphasize the frustration that comes from watching a team get almost over the hill, but right before that happens, rolls all the way back down to the bottom. Of course I’m not saying Sid is intentionally trying to lose, however his inability to seize the moment and push the team into the positive is a depressing trend.

    If you’ve ever seen the film Troy, there’s a scene that helps to illustrate how I feel about how our season usually goes. When Achilles is addressing the myrmidons and getting them pumped up before their boat lands on the beachhead he says “Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions! Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!”

    That feels like how we usually get close to .500 early in conference play and are ready to move up in the ACC and grab that signature win that will push us over the top. Fan enthusiasm is high and we are ready to win. But then the boat lands, and as soon as the exit opens up, one of the guys inside gets it in the head with an arrow before he can even get out of the gate to charge up the beach. That guy is NC State Basketball under Sidney Lowe.

  23. bradleyb123 01/26/2010 at 11:17 AM #

    I believe Roy Williams has every intention of playing Ed Davis tonight. This is a smokescreen like many we’ve seen over the years from Roy Williams and Dean Smith.

    What I want to happen is for them to PLAY Ed Davis, and we still win the game. Then we can enjoy more fun at their expense, because even trickery and deceit didn’t help them beat us. Now if we’ll just go out and win the game.

    I’m nervous because I feel like, for once, we should actually win this game. And we have a chance to pull to 3-4 in the conference. We actually have something to lose tonight!

  24. jbpackfan 01/26/2010 at 11:23 AM #

    Roy is just sandbagging. Ed Davis is fine and will probably play 30 minutes. That said:

    Da Pack 182
    UNC 17

  25. bradleyb123 01/26/2010 at 11:24 AM #

    You guys must know more than Vegas since they have the Heels as 2 point favorites. UNC has the better team…

    Vegas point spreads have NOTHING to do with who should actually win or lose the game. It has everything to do with gamblers’ perceptions. Vegas knows gamblers look at historical records, recent history, stuff like that. They know Carolina is going to get some credibility just for the Carolina BRAND NAME, and conversely, that NC State is going to lose some credibility just for being NC State.

    Never take point spreads as anything meaningful. Vegas just wants the same number of people betting for one team as the other, so they can just keep the “juice”.

    If Carolina was favored by 30, then it would mean a little something. A two point spread really means nothing. If State was favored by any number of points, they know too many people would bet on Carolina and take the points. Then if State actually won the game, Vegas would take a bath on the game. Oddsmakers don’t want to have to worry about who wins the game.

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