We’re just two games away from the UNC regular season finale at Duke, and each game is just as important as the next. The Heels have found themselves in a pretty tough spot when it comes to their ability to win an overall offer from the NCAA, and the reality of the situation is that they likely need to win the rest of their schedule AND make a respectable run in the Tournament ACC. Sure, Joe Lunardi tells us they are right now, but let’s be honest: losing to NC State or Syracuse blows it all up with a quickness. That brings us to tomorrow’s game.
UNC will travel to Raleigh to take on NC State in the PNC Arena. The Wolfpack have been on a bad streak this month, winning just one of their six games. The Heels dismantled them when they visited the Dean Smith Center 100-80, and really the final score doesn’t tell the story of what was a full kick. So how can things be different tomorrow? Honestly, a lot of it depends on how NC State ends. Let’s discuss three things to look out for in tomorrow’s game.
Can Dereon Seabron bounce back?
Let’s be honest: There are probably quite a few UNC fans who only got to watch one NC State game this season, and that was when they played the Heels in the Dean Dome. If you’re one of those people, it’s probably hard to believe that Dereon Seabron is the Wolfpacks’ points, rebounds, assists and steals leader. Currently, Seabron is averaging 18 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, and has stood out in what has been a pretty miserable season for NC State. That is, of course, except for his performance against the Tar Heels.
Against UNC, Seabron finished the game with two points, three rebounds, two assists and zero steals. He was 1-6 from the field and couldn’t even get to the free throw line. To put his performance in perspective: it was the only game of the season where he failed to score in double figures. If NC State wants to have its best chance of beating UNC, Seabron needs to step up and help Terquavion Smith and Jericole Hellems or this game will go as badly as it did the last time these two teams met. .
What level of energy will PNC Arena have?
It’s not usually a talking point when it comes to a game involving UNC, but it’s worth mentioning because of how this season has gone for NC State. As I mentioned earlier, the Wolfpack have only won one game this month, and every loss has been terrible. They now hold Ls hand-delivered to them by last-place Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt and Clemson, all of whom are with the Wolfpack at the bottom of the ACC standings. Things couldn’t be worse for Kevin Keatts & Co., and I understand NC State fans are starting to enter the apathetic part of our show. That brings us to tomorrow afternoon.
More than Dereon Seabron playing well, what NC State really needs is PNC Arena to be electric. It’s really hard to get such an atmosphere when fans feel like they’ve been jumped down an alley behind Chili multiple times, but if there’s one thing Wolfpack fans are good at, it’s is to make sure UNC feels the hate. I can’t imagine a world where the ball rocks, the atmosphere is poor, but NC State still gets a win. Their fans are going to have to make this extremely difficult for the Tar Heels, or it will be extremely difficult to watch.
Keep Bacot in the game
Finally, let’s move on to what UNC can do to win this game: in the game against Louisville, Armando Bacot had a very good first half, then in the second half he was stopped by the Cardinals. They managed to do it with a lot of physical play, they disrupted passes and overall they caused chaos every time the Heels tried to feed him. Luckily, the Heels were able to get the job done regardless, but it’s not a situation anyone should want to repeat.
I said in my three things learned article that I didn’t find the situation with Bacot in the second half alarming, but it really is a game-changer when Bacot is unable to reach the rim. The good news is that Bacot had no problems with State the last time those two teams played, finishing with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. The keys to repeating this performance will be better passing from guards, other players knocking down shots from the perimeter to expand the ground, and Bacot being more secure with the ball. I’m convinced the Louisville game was more outlier than anything, but it would just be good to see him hang 20+ over NC State. What? Tell me you wouldn’t like it either.