Before the season tipped off, we had this game circled as one of the top five must-watch games this season for NC State. The Wolfpack have had an eventful opening to the year with multiple games being cancelled and playing their last two contest with just 9 players dressed. As we are less than 48 hours away from game time, here are three key things the Wolfpack must do to reverse their bad fortune against Roy Williams and the Tar Heels.
Force Turnovers – If you have watched UNC so far this season, you know this might not be a hard thing for State to accomplish. Through seven games this season, the Tar Heels are averaging almost 16 turnovers a game. Some of that is to be expected with a freshman duo starting in the backcourt, but that could be a recipe for an upset for a team such as NC State, who apply full court pressure to turn defense into offense. The Wolfpack are near the top of the country in forced turnovers at 22 per contest.
Knock Down Outside Shots – One of the glaring holes in this year’s UNC team so far (well, almost every UNC team) has been their perimeter defense. Earlier this season, UNC allowed Iowa to take 40 three-point attempts – making 17 of those, which is near a program record. Many of those shots were open. Shooters such as Braxton Beverly, Thomas Allen, Devon Daniels and stretch forward Cole Hellems will have to be ready hit those shots when available.
Slow Down The UNC Front-Court – It is known not just in the ACC, but within college basketball that UNC has the most talented and deep front-court. With the return of Preseason Player of the Year Garrison Brooks and sophomore Armando Bacot, Williams signed McDonald’s All-Americans Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler to an already deep rotation. While UNC still likes to run the floor, the base of the offense will go through the front-court. Brooks is averaging 11.7 ppg along with 7.4 rebounds. Bacot isn’t far behind at 11.4 ppg and 8.7 rebounds per game. If that isn’t enough, Sharpe is usually first off the bench chipping in 8.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds per outing. Add in do-it-all guard Leaky Black, who is also averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, and the Tar Heels are a monster on both the offense and defensive boards, which leads to multiple shot chances that are not only a killer on the scoreboard, but mentally. NC State, who has played without senior big DJ Funderburk the past two games, will be tested early inside with Manny Bates being the only post player with experience.