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BTP Weekly Pregame Predictions: UNC / Louisville, AND why beating UNC is almost a must

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Who knows, really?

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

What a bummer of a sports weekend. The NC State women’s team getting revenge against UNC was the one redeeming point to stave off total depression. The men’s team loses a dumb one to Georgia Tech, then Kobe Bryant passes away. Although he likely would have played for Duke, I always wondered what he would have been like as a college player. If I were Kevin Keatts, I would show the team some Kobe clips as motivation for never stopping to get better and the drive to greatness.

Keeping those wonderful vibes going, the heads-or-tails Wolfpack men have UNC coming to town tonight.

Must Really Need to Win

This game has shifted in the direction of a must win game. NC State should consider itself directly on the bubble right now, likely needing to finish no lower than 5th or 6th in the conference with a couple signature wins to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. On the flip side, they absolutely can’t afford any “bad” losses. As a reminder, here is how the Quadrant system breaks down (based on NET ranking):

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75

Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135

Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240

Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

The loss to GT counts as a Q2 loss, since it was on the road and they were 83rd in the NET. UNC currently sits at 104. A loss to the Heels would be a Q3 loss. Now, a Q4 would be really harsh on the resume, but Q3 is almost the same, especially at home.

The problem is UNC is still UNC. Even when they’re having an off year, they seem to find their mojo when playing NC State. Case in point, they used Miami as a tuneup game before the Pack by beating the Hurricanes 94-71. This ended their 5 game losing streak (first time ever for the program against ACC foes), and far and away the most points they’ve scored all season.

Bummed yet? All this begs the question: which NC State team will show up tonight? If tails was the team that played GT, one can assume that a few factors will kick in leading to the heads version walking on the floor:

Rivalry game - we can reasonably assume that a very motivated Markell Johnson will step up during this game, as he often does when the stage becomes bigger

Home game - the Pack have still only lost one game at home this year, the opener vs GT

Bounce back after loss - the team has yet to lose two games in a row this season. Keatts has done well with refocusing the team after losing a game.

Another reason to work to get a win tonight is the next game is at home against Louisville, which is going to be a hard hill to climb. After that, there’s only nine games remaining, so you have to maximize chances as they come.

On to the predictions. BTP contributors chipped in with their score predictions, plus their thoughts on how the games may play out.


Opponent: UNC

Date: Monday, January 27, 2020

Home/Away: Home

TheRealEssad

Prediction: 82-77 (W)

Comment: “Manny Bates (hopefully!) returns to help win a no defense shootout against the newly re-mojo’d Heels”


JEOHankins

Prediction: 84-76 (W)

Comment: “Chapel Hill comes out hot on offense, but after disappointment at GT the home crowd lifts State to put the game away late”


no23sports

Prediction: 75-68 (W)

Comment: “The Pack win a bounce-back game after their poor performance on Saturday.”


PirateWolf

Prediction: 77-75 (W)

Comment: “Markell nails a step-back three at the buzzer for the win”


KenPom Projection: 78-71 (W)


BTP Staff Cumulative Prediction: 80-74 (W)


Opponent: Louisville

Date: Saturday, February 1, 2020

Home/Away: Home

TheRealEssad

Prediction: 65-78 (L)

Comment: “Cardinals overpower with too many weapons”


JEOHankins

Prediction: 71-74 (L)

Comment: “Hope springs eternal all game with home energy at a high but enough bounces go UofLs way to win”


no23sports

Prediction: 76-73 (W)

Comment: “The Pack finally get that big win they’ve been chasing the past two years.”


PirateWolf

Prediction: 62-79 (L)

Comment: “Pack comes out flat. Louisville’s talent keeps State from getting back in it.”


KenPom Projection: 69-72 (L) (Note: KP giving a lot of credit there, possibly a good sign?)


BTP Staff Cumulative Prediction: 69-76 (L)


Staff Season Predicted Record (started week of Jan 6th):

TheRealEssad: 3 - 3

JEOHankins2: 5 - 1

Steven: 4 - 2

PirateWolf: 2 - 0

no23sports: 3 - 1

KenPom: 4 - 2

Actual: 4 - 2

So what do y’all think? Give us your predictions below!