Raleigh, N.C. -- RBC Center (19,722)
Wednesday, 9 p.m., R/JP (Tim Brant, Billy Packer)
First Meeting: Six weeks ago, the then-13th-ranked Wolfpack came into the Smith Center and started the game on an 11-0 run, but the Tar Heels battled back and finished the game on a 13-0 run of their own for an 82-69 final. Bobby Frasor had a big second half en route to 17 points, while Tyler Hansbrough and Reyshawn Terry were a combined 22-of-22 from the free throw line.
Season To Date: There have been some close calls of late, but the 21-5 record and second place position in the ACC speaks for itself. NC State is having an impressive season and no one in Raleigh is spending time worrying about the absence of Julius Hodge. It's a well-balanced Wolfpack team with five double-digit scorers and a steady seven-man rotation in which the top scorer and the seventh scorer are separated by a mere 7.5 points per game. While not sporting a top tier schedule, they are now a Top 20 RPI team featuring non-conference wins over George Washington, Alabama and Notre Dame. The only two hiccups thus far have been an embarassing 22-point loss at home to Seton Hall last month and a loss at Georgia Tech two weeks ago.
Simmons' Emergence: No player on the Wolfpack team has had a bigger impact on the season than Cedric Simmons. After playing limited minutes his freshman season, he has emerged as a dominant low post presence on defense, blocking 2.8 shots per game. But he's also greatly improved NCSU's offense. Simmons is averaging 12.1 points and shooting 61 percent from the field. Foul trouble limited him to 21 minutes in the first game against UNC, and he managed eight points and six rebounds.
Stretching the Defense: While Simmons has ruled the paint, almost every other Wolfpack player is a threat from beyond the arc. Tony Bethel leads the way (49%), followed by Engin Atsur (44%) and Ilian Evtimov (42%) -- plus Cameron Bennerman has hit 42 threes on the season. The starting lineup has combined to shoot 43.1 percent on three-pointers, while even post player Andrew Brackman is shooting 38% percent off the bench.
Smart Basketball: Sendek's teams might not play the most exciting brand of basketball, but they are almost always well-disciplined on both ends of the court. This year's Wolfpack team is no different, with four upperclassmen in the starting lineup complemented by solid youngsters. On the defensive side, NCSU leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense (39.8%) and is second in three-point percentage defense (29.7%). On offense, the team is third in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.18. Engin Atsur has been the catalyst for the steady play. In addition to his aforementioned stellar three-point percentage, he's sporting the league's third-best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.84) and has a team-high 44 steals.
Injury Report: Senior Ilian Evtimov's status is up in the air after suffering a sprained foot ligament last Wednesday against Florida State. He sat out Saturday's win at Virginia Tech and NC State has yet to issue an update. If Evtimov can't go, the Wolfpack will likely stay with the six remaining players in the main rotation, while giving freshman Ben McCauley limited reserve time.
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with NC State, 133-74, and have won the last five matchups, which means Roy Williams is 5-0 against the Wolfpack as UNC's head coach. Carolina is 52-43 all-time against NC State in Raleigh (4-2 mark in the ESA/RBC Center, 29-29 at Reynolds Coliseum). Carolina's 7-3 mark in Raleigh in the past 10 road trips ties for the team's best road conference record at any arena over the past decade (the Tar Heels are also 7-3 at Florida State in their last 10 trips). (by UNC Athletic Communications)
Projected Starters: 22 Tony Bethel (6-1, 185, Sr.) – 10.2 ppg, 3.0 apg 14 Engin Atsur (6-4, 200, Jr.) – 11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg 13 Cameron Bennerman (6-4, 205, Sr.) – 13.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg 3 Illian Evtimov (6-8, 222, Sr.) – 11.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg 33 Cedric Simmons (6-9, 233, So.) - 12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg Key Reserves: 40 Andrew Brackman (6-10, 235, So.) – 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg 11 Gavin Grant (6-7, 212, So.) - 7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, 235, Fr.) – 2.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg
Simmons ... Atsur
Brackman ... Evtimov
Bethel ... Bennerman