North Carolina Tar Heels: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

December, 7, 2012
The Blue Devils continue to roll; the Hokies continue to rise. Here are this week’s ACC power rankings, based on myriad factors, including how teams have played lately and the foes they've faced:

1. Duke. After beating three top-5 teams in November, the question is: When will the second-ranked Blue Devils lose? They easily dispatched Delaware last weekend, and next up is a matchup with Temple in East Rutherford, N.J.

2. Virginia Tech. If the Hokies’ 6-0 start didn’t raise your eyebrows, then last weekend’s win over No. 15 Oklahoma State (to push their record to 7-0) should have. Senior Erick Green (24.9 points per game) continues to impress as Tech -- picked before the season to finish 10th in the league -- gets another test Saturday with a trip to West Virginia.

3. NC State. The No. 25 Wolfpack remain a work in progress, but they proved they are going in the right direction with their win over UConn in the Jimmy V Classic. Senior Richard Howell and freshman T.J. Warren -- two of the “other” guys often mentioned after C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis -- lead the team in scoring with 14 ppg and 13.4 ppg, respectively.

4. Maryland. Coach Mark Turgeon inserted three new players into the starting lineup in a blowout win over Maryland-Eastern Shore -- just, he said, to give them the experience of starting. And he might do something similar this weekend against South Carolina State. This team seems to be having fun, and it has translated into seven straight wins.

5. Miami. The Hurricanes have won three straight since the return of guard Durand Scott, who had to sit out the first three games of the season. He’s averaging 15 ppg, second only to Shane Larkin (16.3). Miami doesn’t play again until Dec. 14.

6. North Carolina. The Tar Heels beat UAB last weekend without injured starting point guard Marcus Paige, but coach Roy Williams is looking for someone to step up at center (three players have started there) and for his team to get better on defense. Reserve Leslie McDonald is making 50 percent of his 3-pointers, which is a good sign for a team that needs to be accurate from long distance.

7. Virginia. It hasn’t always been pretty -- how about that 46-38 win over Tennessee? -- but the Cavaliers have reeled off six straight victories since their 1-2 start. Guard Jontel Evans’ surgically repaired right foot continues to be an issue, but Joe Harris leads the team with 16.1 ppg and forward Akil Mitchell has four double-doubles this season.

8. Clemson. The Tigers lost a starter when the school announced earlier this week that sophomore guard T.J. Sapp would transfer. But they’ll return another -- senior forward Milton Jennings, who missed the past two games because of a suspension -- in time for Saturday’s game against No. 8 Arizona. Clemson is ranked 12th nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 53.7 points per game.

9. Georgia Tech. By beating Georgia earlier this week, the Yellow Jackets have won back-to-back games in the in-state rivalry for the first time since winning three in a row from 1992 to 1994. Freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt leads Tech with 12 ppg.

10. Florida State. What’s worse: A five-point loss to a sub-.500 Mercer team or a 25-point loss to a top-10 Florida squad? The Seminoles, who have dropped three straight, have a lot to figure out.

11. Wake Forest. After back-to-back single-digit scoring games (in losses to Nebraska and at Richmond), senior C.J. Harris finally got back to double figures (10) in a win over High Point. Their poor rebounding margin (minus-1.4 per game, last in the league) hasn’t helped the Deacons, either.

12. Boston College. Ryan Anderson is seventh in the ACC in scoring (15.4 ppg), but the Eagles rank last in field goal percentage defense (45.4). Harvard shot 61.5 percent in the second half of BC’s latest loss. Harvard has won five straight in the series.
Add North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland to the list of NC State doubters.

The senior told's Jeff Goodman on Thursday that he wasn't exactly in agreement with the coaches and media who picked the rival Wolfpack to win the ACC this season:
"They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year," Strickland said. "They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can't put them in the mix."

The Tar Heels (picked to finish third in the league by the coaches and media) have beaten NC State 13 straight times, but as shown by Strickland's comments, the matchups this season are sure to breed some smack talk on and off the court. While the Wolfpack return four starters from the team that advanced to last March's Sweet 16, UNC lost four starters from the squad that lost in the NCAA regional finals.

Double-digit seeds look to upset Midwest

March, 21, 2012
Our Sweet 16 preview continues with a look at the matchups in the Midwest Regional on Friday:

(13) Ohio vs. (1) North Carolina, 7:47 ET
According to North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, the Tar Heels are preparing to play Friday’s game without starting point guard Kendall Marshall.

Without Marshall as the primary ball handler, the Tar Heels could have difficulty getting past the Ohio Bobcats tomorrow. Ohio forces 17.2 turnovers per game, the fifth-highest mark in the nation and most among the remaining Sweet 16 teams.

Marshall has also shined as the team’s offensive catalyst during the tournament, creating 80 points in his two games from either his own scoring or assists. Against Creighton, Marshall was responsible for 45 of the team's 87 points (55 percent).

If Marshall is not able to play, North Carolina’s ability to finish in the paint and in transition will likely be hurt. Nearly 30 percent of his 201 assists since the start of ACC play have come in transition.

Also, two-thirds of Marshall's assists in that time frame have resulted in paint shots. Tyler Zeller has been the biggest benefactor during this stretch, with 43 percent of his field goals coming off passes from Marshall.

Ohio’s most indispensable player is guard D.J. Cooper, who will be on the court Friday, and the Bobcats are certainly happy about that. Cooper has scored or assisted on 71 of Ohio’s 127 points (56 percent), the highest percentage for any player remaining in the field.

(11) NC State vs (2) Kansas, 10:17 ET
One key battle to watch in this Sweet 16 matchup will be the ability of NC State’s big men to dominate Kansas' forward-center tandem of Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey around the basket.

The Jayhawks have allowed just 22 points in the paint per game this season, which leads the Big 12 and is second among major conference schools. The Wolfpack are averaging 33 paint points per game this season, which ranks second in the ACC and 11th among the Power 6 teams.

However, NC State struggled to find its inside game against Georgetown in the third round. The Wolfpack shot less than 35 percent and scored just 20 points on attempts in the paint, including only six in the second half.

If Kansas is going to advance to the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks might want to improve their mid-range game. Kansas is shooting 27 percent outside the paint in the tournament, the worst among the remaining teams in the field.