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Friday, January 30, 2009

A look at UNC

Steven's preview at Section Six

State enters this game after an overtime win; Carolina, after narrowly avoiding a road loss on a last-second shot by Ty Lawson. It's tough to know if either outcome will have any bearing on this game, but likely neither result means a whole hill of beans in this series.


This is State's big rivalry game, after all, and as 2006 showed us, one team valuing the game's importance more can play a big role in who comes out as the victor. State won that year's contest and Roy Williams rightly ripped his squad for not understanding the rivalry aspect.

Somehow I doubt we'll see a mental collapse like that from the Heels again. Roy will have them focused, for sure.

The question is, if the Heels launch out to a big lead in the first or second half, can they maintain it? They've shown at times that they lack the killer instinct, letting teams like FSU on Wednesday get back up off the mat when they've had them down big.

State, of course, has shown the same propensity, perhaps to an even larger degree. The Wolfpack's M.O. this year seems to be:

1) Get up big early
2) Go on a scoring drought
3) Pray for mercy from the basketball gods.

Florida State rallied late in their game (noticing a pattern with the Noles?) against State to eventually take the lead and win. Miami came from 19 down in the second half to tie it and send it to Lowe-vertime (where, of course, State is money).

I think if you're Sidney Lowe, you've got some big decisions to make defensively. It's never fun picking one poison over another, but Carolina can beat you inside with Tyler Hansbrough, outside with Danny Green or Wayne Ellington, or down the lane with Ty Lawson.

If Sidney plays his Big Lineup (Costner, McCauley, Smith, Fells and Degand), I imagine they'll try to force Carolina to beat them from outside and pray for an unkind rim. Ellington can run hot or cold (unless your team's name is Clemson, in which case he scores 90), and Green can disappear at times as well. Expect Fells to guard Carolina's best three-point threat in much the same way he did against Miami's Jack McClinton. You just have to hope that his ankle holds up for extended minutes of action.

On offense, State has to do just about everything perfect. Rebound, take care of the ball, shoot high percentage shots when they're available and hit your threes when they present themselves. Avoiding a 5-8 minute drought is imperative...the droughts are what have allowed teams to get back in it against State of late. If the Pack can put points on the board nearly every trip down the court (sounds easy, right?), that would help maintain the team's confidence and put the Pack in position to make a run of their own if the Heels suffer another late-game swoon.

I have no idea what the line is, and I really don't think it matters. This game could easily be a 30-point blowout or a 10-point State win, with any possible result in between.

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