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UNC presents the usual problems, just earlier than normal this time

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CBS Sports Classic - North Carolina vs Kentucky Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

How nice of the ACC to do us the kindness of putting UNC on the schedule right before Christmas. It’s not like Roy Williams lacked motivation for winning this game already—now he can put a sour note on a holiday for State fans.

The datgone Tar Heels, noted:

— While UNC is better this season, it has one nagging problem that’s a holdover from 2020, and that’s poor three-point shooting. The Heels are shooting 26.6% from three, and as is typical of a Roy offense, they also rarely attempt those shots. You’d think the paucity of perimeter points would be a more significant detriment to the offense than it is.

— If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 500 times: you have got to rebound at least decently at the defensive end against UNC. The Heels are always good on the offensive glass, and lately it’s become a bigger part of their overall offensive production because the team doesn’t shoot the ball well. You just cannot let this team consistently get off the hook with second-chance opportunities if you want to beat them.

— NC State has, often in fact, let UNC off the hook in just such a fashion. The history here is ugly, and it’s frustrating. It’s the aspect of the game I’m always looking at in the early stages, and usually the portents aren’t great. And of course, UNC might be catching State without a big man tonight, so that figures.

— Garrison Brooks destroyed State in the meetings last year, scoring 25 in the first game and 30 in the second. What does NC State do differently this time around?

— Freshman Caleb Love leads the Heels in workload this year and his shooting numbers are eye-gougingly bad: 22-57 (.386) on twos, 4-30 (.133) on threes. Carolina has played six freshmen in all seven games, and big man Day’Ron Sharpe has been the best of them.

— Perhaps reflecting that youth, the Heels have been unusually turnover-prone this season, ranking just 245th in TO%. There’s an opening to exploit if you’re Kevin Keatts.

— UNC doesn’t shoot it great, and turns the ball over too much, but it is an elite offensive rebounding team and also does a great job drawing fouls. Can NC State prevent those latter two factors from deciding the game?

— KenPom has State by one.