Hairston was inserted into UNC's starting lineup three games ago and he has certainly responded. Often matching up with the opposition's power forward, Hairston has averaged 20.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in the three contests.
Moving James Michael McAdoo to the center position and slotting Hairston, who is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds at power forward has made North Carolina more effectively offensively and quicker along the frontline.
"I feel like they're a totally different team, especially with the lineup they have," said Richard Howell. "I've seen them play a couple of times since we've played them.
"I feel like they have a new confidence level. They're playing well right now, and we just want to slow them down."
"It's definitely weird," added Lorenzo Brown. "I grew up watching them play. They always had a lot of big men down there that were really strong and physical.
"It's a lot different for them this year. They have a three-point shooting team this year. That's something I've never seen on their side."
A prolific three-point shooter, Hairston has taken advantage of the mismatches by finding open spots around the perimeter. In the three games he has attempted seven, 12, and seven 3-pointers. While he has connected on just eight, having him on the court has opened up the floor for other players, notably McAdoo, to be more productive as well.
"I think our team is pretty fast to switch on them," said Brown. "We have the perfect size for them. C.J. [Leslie] is pretty much a wing player anyway, so I think he'll do fine."
Hairston's willingness to take shots makes him very dangerous and State's big men must be aware of him at all times because he can get hot in a hurry. He scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting (5-of-8 3's) in just 17 minutes in the first matchup.
"He's a great shooter," said Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie. "Anytime you have a great outside shooter you always have to be aware of him on the court on the offensive end.
"He's always been able to shoot the ball. It's just a matter of him being confident and actually getting the chance to go out there and do it. He's always been a great shooter."
However, this could be the first game that Hairston, or fellow wing Reggie Bullock, will truly be tested on the defensive end.
UNC's last three games were against Duke, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. Duke, without Ryan Kelly, doesn't have a scorer at "four" spot, and Virginia plays small like North Carolina, often slotting wings Justin Anderson and Evan Nolte at the position.
Georgia Tech has Robert Carter and Kam Holsey, but the Yellow Jackets were not patient enough offensively to work the ball inside to their big men. When they received post touches they had their moments, but it wasn't a focal point of Tech.
That isn't the case with NC State, a team that, on every possession, tries to get Richard Howell or C.J. Leslie a touch on the block... not to mention top frontcourt reserve T.J. Warren is also a scoring threat at 6'8 and 230 pounds.
"I might be out on the wing, but it could be a little bit of both," said Leslie. "I don't know. Coach will tell me where I need to be whenever we get there."
"They changed their lineup, they went a little bit smaller," added Howell. "We can definitely get the ball low to me and C.J. and hopefully get some easy baskets.
"That will definitely fun to go in there and be bigger than UNC. Usually, well since I've been here, when we played them they're always taller and bigger on the inside. It's definitely a big advantage for the game. I feel like that's something we can use."
Saturday's contest is shaping up to be a game of mismatches. UNC will be playing the majority of the game with four perimeter players spacing the court for a face-up forward. NC State will start a more conventional lineup with two post scorers and a 6'8 wing in Warren who can score inside-and-out.
The Hairston-Leslie battle could go a long way to determining the outcome of the game... that's assuming the two do in fact guard each other. UNC could choose to put McAdoo or Bullock on State's 6'9 forward.
"I don't know [who will be guarding C.J. Leslie]," said Brown. "Whoever is the four man, he has to defend him.
"Good luck to him I guess."