WOLFPACK, TAR HEELS MEET FOR 229th TIME
A rivalry unsurpassed by few in college athletics will be renewed Saturday at noon when the NC State men’s basketball team plays at No. 5 UNC Chapel Hill. The two rivals, who have played at least twice a year since 1920, split a pair of meetings last season. The game will be the national noon game on ESPN and on the national ESPN Radio broadcast.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. WOLFPACK vs. TAR HEELS, NO. 229
Saturday’s contest is the 229th meeting between the two rivals, NC State’s third-most played rivalry in men’s basketball (behind Wake Forest and Duke). In the most recent edition of the series, the Wolfpack went into the Smith Center last February and won 58-46, a victory that solidified the Pack’s postseason resume and propelled the team to a Sweet 16 run. The 46 points scored by UNC-CH was the lowest offensive output by the Tar Heels in the Smith Center and UNC-CH shot just .345 on the night. The Pack and the Tar Heels have played at least twice a year each season since 1919-20 and the series dates back to 1912.
2. POINT GUARD SHOWDOWN
Fans of standout point guard play are in for a treat this Saturday when two of the top point guards in the ACC take the court. Cat Barber is currently the ACC’s leading scorer (22.5 ppg) and ranks fourth in assists per game (4.88) while playing an ACC-high 38.65 minutes per contest. Across from Barber will be Marcus Paige, who averages 15.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. In last year’s Wolfpack victory in Chapel Hill, Barber totaled 15 points, four rebounds and four assists against Paige’s seven points and seven assists.
3. THIS IS JUST ROUND ONE
The two flagship universities of North Carolina will meet once more this season after Saturday’s game at the Smith Center. NC State, under the ACC’s current basketball scheduling structure, NC State is paired with rivals UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest as home-and-home partners each year. The Wolfpack and Tar Heels will meet in PNC Arena Wednesday, Feb. 24. Additionally, UNC-CH is the third consecutive home-and-home partner NC State has seen, following Wake Forest last weekend and Florida State on Wednesday (State’s fourth travel partner is Duke). NC State is the ACC’s only team scheduled to play both UNC Chapel Hill and Duke twice this season.
4. COIN TOSS GAMES AGAINST TOUGH OPPONENTS
A reasonable mind could consider the Wolfpack’s 0-4 ACC record as deceiving. The Pack has lost its four conference games by a combined total of 20 points, with one setback coming in overtime. NC State led by 14 in the second half before falling in OT at Virginia Tech in the league opener, then had the ball in the final seconds trailing by three points against both Louisville and Florida State. Last Sunday at Wake Forest, the Wolfpack owned a second-half lead before being edged 77-74.
NC State has been within one score of winning or tying the game in the final minute of each of its ACC games.
Furthermore, NC State has no bad losses, with six of the team’s seven setbacks coming against the top 70 of the ESPN.com Daily RPI. NC State’s doesn’t have a lost outside of the RPI’s top 115.
5. BOTH TEAMS WILL GO GET IT
Both NC State and UNC-CH crash the offensive boards at a prolific rate. The Wolfpack, which leads the ACC by collecting 15.82 offensive rebounds per game, grabs 38.5 percent of its missed shots (14th in the nation). The host Tar Heels grab 38.6 percent of its misses, which is the 13th-best rate in the country.
WOLFPUPS GAINING EXPERIENCE
The experience gained this season by the young Wolfpack squad could pay dividends for the program’s future. According to the popular basketball metrics website KenPom. com, the Wolfpack stands as the 305th most-experienced team (or 46th least-experienced) in the country. The team, when minutes played are weighted by each player’s eligibility class, averages just 1.27 years of experience. The national average is 1.70 and the average experience of the 15-team ACC is 1.48.
Cat Barber surpassed the 1,000-point mark in December, reaching the plateau in his 83rd game as a Wolfpacker. Barber now has 1,114 career points, ranking 41st in NC State history. He needs 53 points to tie Lorenzo Brown for 40th place. Barber is eighth among active players (and tops among non-seniors) in the ACC in career scoring.
LAST YEAR IN CHAPEL HILL
Never in Smith Center history have the Tar Heels scored less than the 46 points they managed against NC State last season. Addtionally, UNC’s 18 points in the first half tied the record for least points scored in a half at the Smith Center. The Wolfpack led 34-18 early in the second half before a 14-2 run cut the Pack’s lead to 36-32. Later, a game-finishing 8-0 run by NC State provided the final 58-46 margin.
Wolfpack fans’ chants and cheers of ‘Abuuuuuu” for Abdul-Malik Abu have become more more prevalent recently. The 6-8 sophomore forward is averaging 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds over the last seven games. That stretch includes four double-doubles, highlighted by his 15 points and 12 rebounds vs. Louisville. Abu, who has started every game this season, owns six double-doubles this year.
OFFENSIVE BOARD WORK
NC State hauls in a considerable rate of its offensive rebounds, grabbing 38.2 percent of its missed shots, good for 18th in the nation. The Pack has nine games with 15+ offensive rebounds and has grabbed at least 10 offensive boards in every game this season. NC State leads the ACC with 15.56 offensive rebounds per game.
STOP RIGHT THERE
Currently on a four-game losing streak, the Wolfpack has never had five straight losses under Mark Gottfried. In 2012, the Pack lost four straight games before winning four straight, two games to close the regular season and two games in the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.
GOTTFRIED’S DRIVE FOR FIVE
Head coach Mark Gottfried can accomplish something only one other coach in ACC basketball history has matched. Gottfried has led his program to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons, which has only been accomplished by Skip Prosser (first 4 years) and Roy Williams (first 6 years).
10 WINS OUTSIDE OF LEAGUE PLAY
NC State won 10 non-ACC games for the fourth time in five years under Mark Gottfried. The Wolfpack won 11 non-conference games in each of the coach’s first two seasons and won 10 in 2013-14, his third season. Last season, NC State won nine non-ACC games and a rare early ACC game with Wake Forest last December to reach 10 wins before the calendar turned to 2015.