North Carolina Tarheels vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack Preview and Pick

No. 5 North Carolina Tarheels (18-2) at North Carolina State Wolfpack (11-7)
Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, 3:30PM Eastern

By Jay Horne of

Conference action showcase an ACC battle between inner-state rivals on Saturday when the North Carolina State Wolfpack host the no.5 ranked North Carolina Tarheels. North Carolina is coming off one of the most exciting finishes of the year when standout Ty Lawson hit a game winning 3 pointer as the buzzer blared to lift the Tarheels over the Florida State Seminoles on Wednesday night 80-77. The Wolfpack are also coming off an exciting win. North Carolina State freshmen Julius Mays hit a game winning 3 pointer with under 3 seconds to play grabbing the victory in overtime over Miami. North Carolina State has lost the last 4 meeting between their instate rival, but they will try to change that by grabbing an upset this Saturday.

North Carolina is climbing back up the polls after suffering two losses fairly close together. The Tarheels sport one of the best scoring offenses in college basketball averaging over 90 points per game. Former Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough has been a dominate force throughout his entire career for North Carolina, but the star player was held to a season low 8 points on Wednesday night. Hansbrough leads the team with a strong 21.8 points per game and they definitely need him to have a better night. Guard Ty Lawson picked up the slack on Wednesday night draining 21 points including that game winning 3 pointer. Lawson is key to the Tarheels success probably as much as any player for the reason of how well he distributes the ball. However, in the Tarheels two losses this season it has been the only two games Lawson was held to 10 points or less meaning Lawson ability to put the ball in the hoop may be more valuable than many believe.

North Carolina State had dropped two straight before their win over Miami and they still have lost 5 of the last 7 games. The Wolfpack have become bottom dwellers in conference play with a 2-4 record in the ACC. One big problem North Carolina State has witnessed fall short of expectations is the way they have rebounded. The Wolfpack are near one of the only teams in the Conference that is nearly averaging being out rebounded. Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner combine for 15 rebounds per game, but behind them there is not much help. Not to mention North Carolina is one of the best rebounding teams across the country, it is imperative that the Wolfpack find a way to be effective on the glass if they have any shot at a upset on Saturday.

North Carolina leads all of college basketball in terms of rebounding pulling down an amazing 43 boards per game. If the Tarheels dominate the boards similar to the way they have against North Carolina State, the game could get out of hand fast with their lethal weapons on offense. Amazingly the Tarheels have 6 different players averaging 10 points or more for the season. Outside of the normal extremely dangerous players in Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough, another big name is emerging. Wayne Ellington is posting 14 points per game, but has really come on strong in the last few games averaging 21 points over the last 3 outings. Ellington posted 25 points in the Tarheels big blowout win against Clemson has can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. The North Carolina State Wolfpack will have to find a way to slow down a bunch of talented players on the Tarheels offense or simply make a lot more points than normal to stay in this game.

The Wolfpack are only averaging 70 points per game this season while shooting 46% as a team from the floor. North Carolina State has 3 guys in double figures compared to the six from North Carolina. Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, and Courtney Fells are all averaging at least 11 points. Costner leads the team posting 14.5 points per game and is fresh off a big 21 point night in the victory over Miami. The Wolfpack will need to get a big performance from these 3 guys and rack up some points to keep up with the North Carolina offense. The Wolfpack are only averaging a dismal 62 points in their 7 losses this season and they will not get it done this Saturday either. North Carolina State will have to knock down some more shots that they have all season.

Betting Trends
North Carolina State has reached the over total in 4 out of their last 5 games and also have reached the over total in 4 of their last 5 meetings with North Carolina. The Wolfpack have played well at home with a 10-2 SU mark. The Tarheels are only 4-8 ATS in the last 12 outings while reaching the over total in 4 of the last 6. However, the Tarheels have played well on the road with a strong 20-1 SU mark in the last 21 games away from Chapel Hill.

Jay’s Pick North Carolina rolls big.