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It happened last year with Duke, and I think it happens again this year with NC State.
The Wolfpack took a couple dings against Oklahoma State and Michigan, but they are quickly molding themselves into the team most people thought would win the ACC. NC State has five players averaging double figures in points—and freshman Rodney Purvis isn't even in that group.
He will be, though.
But North Carolina is blooming late, too. When these two teams meet for the first time on Jan. 26, the Tar Heels will be coming into Raleigh on a high from two confidence-building blowouts of Maryland and Georgia Tech.
C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell will have their way in the paint, but the Carolina wings turn out to be the deciding factor. Dexter Strickland, P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock have monster games on defense, while Leslie McDonald, Bullock and Hairston light up the arc at PNC Arena.
UNC wins the first meeting 81-76.
NC State is prepared for combat in the next meeting at Chapel Hill. It works quickly to build a lead, taking the Tar Heel crowd out of the equation early. With the Wolfpack fans in attendance, it begins to feel more like home to the boys in red.
It's domination in the paint once again by the NC State bigs. This time, they get some help on the outside from Purvis, Lorenzo Brown, T.J. Warren and Scott Wood.
Carolina is unable to match the Wolfpack's outside shooting in this one and is simply outplayed at the 4 and 5 positions.
NC State tops UNC in Chapel Hill, 84-75