In a way it's hard to believe it's been over five years since NC State has beaten North Carolina, but it also makes sense--when you're 15 points worse than your opponent every time you meet, how many wins does luck afford? We got that fluke performance in Sidney Lowe's first year. We also played well against the Heels in the ACC Tournament finals that season. Since then, we've had 20-minute spans of competitiveness, but not much beyond that. Which isn't surprising given the talent differential, and the makeup of the NC State teams assembled by Sidney Lowe, which were further encumbered by myriad structural flaws that made them less than the sum of their parts.
Although the structure is being repaired, the first two games this year did plenty to reinforce that talent differential, and on top of that, Roy Williams always seems to have his team focused against the Wolfpack. I wrote the blurb below prior to the last meeting, and it's still true. I still think it's the biggest factor in this matchup, at least as long as Zeller and Henson are in the building:
Since State's not going to be forcing many turnovers, the only way they're going to give Carolina's offense pause is by controlling the defensive boards. There's a lot left to the whims of shooting accuracy when there aren't many turnovers in the picture, and if the Heels shoot 60% and don't need their offensive rebounding to roll, so be it. But if they have a typical night from the field and control this game with second chance opportunities, well, that's another door we closed on ourselves.
(Incidentally, NC State did a pretty good job on the defensive glass in that game and UNC posted a 60.0 eFG%. ... I'll show myself out. Good night and good luck.)
So let's do that again and see what happens. We've been awful in this series of late, but we also haven't caught any breaks whatsoever. The latter always could change. When I watch games against the Heels, defensive rebounding is the main thing I'm looking for so that I can check of the "we did what we could" box, shrug it off, and then return to the beers. I hope for more beyond that, of course, but that's the bare minimum for surviving a blowout without wanting to grab a golf club and chase defenseless animals.