The North Carolina Tar Heels are one of the most dominant offensive teams in the nation and hold a distinct advantage over the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
These two rivals come into this ACC clash with a lot on the line in the early portion of the conference schedule.
The ACC is crowded up top, and the pair of Tobacco Road schools barely trail the leaders.
Tonight's showdown in Chapel Hill is big for both the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels.
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m. EST
Live Stream: ESPN 3
Betting Line (according to Scores and Odds): UNC -13
Key Injuries (according to StatFox)
Desmond Hubert, F, UNC—Questionable (Ankle)
Dexter Strickland, G, UNC—Out for Season (Knee)
What's At Stake?
ACC Standing. The Wolfpack actually holds a half-game lead over the Tar Heels in the conference right now because they've played one extra game.
This the first of two meetings between the Tobacco Road schools, and should either of them be in the hunt late in the season when they second game rolls around, this game could come back to haunt them.
A win here is big for both schools.
What They're Saying
The News Observer writes:
The key stat in tonight’s N.C. State at UNC basketball game could be no more complicated than the foul count. In four of the Wolfpack’s five losses thus far, at least one or two starters got into heavy foul trouble early. The exception was an 88-72 loss to Syracuse ... State coach Mark Gottfried uses a seven-man rotation that hinges on a delicate playing time balance. When one player isn’t producing, the entire operation tends to malfunction. Fouls and injuries obviously do inordinate harm to a limited rotation.
They have to be good here if they want to beat the Tar Heels.
N.C. State Player to Watch: Richard Howell, F
The 6'8" junior is the Wolfpack's leading rebounder at 9.4 board per game and adds nearly 12 points per game to the scoring column.
Tonight he'll have his hands full against two monster seven-footers that make the Tar Heels the best rebounding team in nation.
Along with DeShawn Painter, Howell is going to have to be physical with UNC big boys if his team is going to have a chance to win.
UNC Player to Watch: Harrison Barnes, F
The sophomore swingman is key component to the Tar Heels offense. Big John Henson and Tyler Zeller chip in 29 points and 19 rebounds per game combined, but it is Barnes 17.4 points that leads the way.
Barnes is shooting 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from the beyond the arc and has scored in double digits all but three times this season.
In each of UNC's three losses, he failed to eclipse the 15-point mark for the game, but he has done so in 13 of the the Tar Heel's 16 wins.
Key Matchup: N.C. State front line vs. Henson and Zeller
There simply is no way for the Wolfpack to matchup with the height of UNC's big men effectively. Their best bet is to get the Tar Heels in foul trouble and force them to shoot from the outside.
Defensively, the loss of Strickland really hurts UNC, so look for the Wolfpack to try and take advantage of that, including more driving to the basket.
Prediction: UNC 87, N.C. State 75