Johnson: Five Goals

When Sidney Lowe talked about facing North Carolina, he brought up the way the Tar Heels seem to always force their game on the opposition.

"They are unselfish, they stick to their game plan – they try to impose their will on you," Lowe said.

If the message boards on this site are any indication, it looks like the Heels have already imposed their will on some NC State fans. Someone even went so far as to tell me he wouldn't show up to avoid watching the inevitable trouncing of the Wolfpack.

Good thing that these fans don't actually have any say in what happens on Saturday. Instead, it will be Lowe and his players, who have a decidedly less defeatist attitude about the situation.

"You have to be tough mentally more so than physically to be able to fight back," Lowe said. "That's why I say it's not so much what other teams do – its what you do. If you have a plan, and you stick to your plan, what you're doing is trying to impose your will on them."

Since Sidney isn't worried about what Carolina is going to do, let's go with his mindset and ask 'What exactly does NC State need to do to win this game?' And instead of talking in generalities, let's set five specific goals that can turn the game from a certain blowout into a competitive or even winnable contest.

1. Commit less than 15 turnovers: Fifteen might even be too high, but anything over that is going to spell defeat for the Wolfpack. Lowering the turnovers will also keep Carolina's transition game in check, an obvious key because there is absolutely no way the Wolfpack can run with the Heels. State dug itself an early hole against Duke with a myriad of first-half turnovers, and the Tar Heels are even more apt to make the Pack pay for sloppy execution.

2. Shoot over 50 percent: Shooting, especially from inside the arc, has been one of the Pack's strengths all season long. The Pack is tied for 17th in the nation, shooting 49 percent for the year (the Tar Heels are fifth at 50.7 percent). But Carolina has very quietly become a great defensive team, a fact often overshadowed by their scoring numbers. And the Pack will be too busy trying to slow down the Heel's running game to really attack the offensive boards. A cold shooting night would bring a quick end to any upset hopes.

3. Allow fewer than 10 offense rebounds: The Tar Heels are one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the nation, and will no doubt try to exploit their size advantage to dominate the offensive glass. The Pack is going to have to crash the defensive glass hard, even if it means giving up some transition opportunities, to ensure Carolina doesn't get a lot of easy putbacks. One of the many pluses of having Engin Atsur back is that it allows one of the Pack's best rebounders, Gavin Grant, to attack the glass.

4. Get a positive contribution from the bench: The Pack managed to win at Virginia Tech on Wednesday despite getting no points, one rebound and one assist out of its bench in 22 minutes of action. To beat Carolina, guys like Dennis Horner, Trevor Ferguson and Bryan Neiman have to make a bigger positive impact. The starters are going to need to sit more than usual because of how quickly Carolina pushes the ball up the court, so the bench might see as much as 30 minutes of playing time.

5. Costner and McCauley sit zero minutes because of foul trouble: Ben and Brandon will be assigned to the Heels killer inside combo of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright, and it's important that they don't take themselves out of the game with fouls. The Pack's two big men will have to walk the tight rope all night, trying to stop two incredible offensive players while not drawing too many whistles. Either of these guys on the bench because of foul trouble will spell trouble for the Wolfpack.

Not one of the things listed above is an impossible goal (depending on your view of ACC officiating). The tough part will be getting all five done in the same game against what might be the nation's best team. But if they accomplish them, that guy who decided not to show up might sitting at home wondering how he could be so stupid.

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