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Previewing UNC @ NC State

Heels won 95-71 in the previous meeting.

The Pack doesn't want to go there again.

North Carolina shot 60% in the first meeting, and NC State couldn't match that efficiency. NC State can keep it closer this time around simply by shooting better (they were under 40% in the first game), but they can't win the game unless they play better defense.

Some up-to-date numbers (games through 2/21):

Adjusted Field Goal Percentage

Heels: 56.7% (1st ACC)
Pack: 53.2% (3rd ACC)

Offensive Efficiency (Courtesy of Ken Pomeroy, as always; numbers unadjusted)

Heels: 115.9 (2nd ACC)
Pack: 111.2 (4th ACC)

Defensive Efficiency (unadjusted)

Heels: 88.8 (2nd ACC)
Pack: 99.7 (7th ACC)

NC State kept the the pace down in the first meeting, and there's no reason to expect anything different on Tuesday night. The question is--in a game with 66-68 possessions, can the Wolfpack manage to keep UNC under 80 points? They do that, and they've got an excellent shot at winning.

Is that doable? Perhaps moreso than you would think. In six ACC road games, North Carolina is averaging 84 points per game. If you remove the sample-skewing Virginia game (the one where the Heels scored 110 points), that average drops to 79 PPG. UNC's average ACC road Offensive Efficiency (pts/possession) is 113.6 with the UVA game and 109.8 without it.

So, say the game has 67 possessions (Average tempo numbers found here) for each team: if UNC hit an efficiency of 113.6, they'd score 76 points. If the Heels hit 109.8, they would score about 74 points.

If the Heels have an average road performance, this is about where they can expect their point total to be. But that's a rather large "if." When the Heels shoot the ball well, they're pretty much guaranteed 80+ points, and that's not something NC State is likely to top.

I'm not confident enough in the Wolfpack's defense to predict a tough night for the Heels, but I feel pretty good about this game being competitive. Barring an off night from the floor of its own, State stays within single digits of the Heels for most or all of the game. And the Pack might even, you know, win or something.