UNC Basketball vs. NC State: Game preview, info, prediction and more

The UNC men’s basketball program will host NC State at the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, looking to repeat the same outcome as the first time these two teams met.

The Tar Heels silenced the wolf pack howl in early January, beating NC State on their hardwood floor. UNC’s second half exposed NC State, using their fast-paced offense to beat down state defense, running them off the court and resulting in a 67-54 victory.

Since then, both teams have endured different paths, with UNC fully emerging in title contender conversations. Meanwhile, NC State’s name isn’t even considered in most bracket predictions, with a quick exit expected in the ACC tournament.

This game is a perfect opportunity for UNC to put a nail in their “rival” coffin, getting the last laugh with a regular season sweep. They will be home and have all the momentum on their side to get the victory and stay at the top of the ACC standings.

Despite NC State’s lackluster season, they will still be looking to spoil their parade. Here’s what UNC will need to do to prevent that from happening.

Key to victory

Jan 10, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Zayden High (1) and the bench react during the second half against North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. That statement stands strong in this one, with UNC already proving to be the better team out of the two. To make things even sweeter for the Tar Heels, they will be home in this one, where they hold a dominant 12-1 record.

In the first game, UNC’s pace in the second half was too much for NC State to keep up, tiring them out with their resilient pressure. The key to victory in this one is simple don’t go away from what worked, while still respecting the threats NC State brings.

Something to watch

Feb 26, 2024; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard RJ Davis (4) shoots a three point shot as Miami (Fl) Hurricanes forward Norchad Omier (15) defends in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As RJ Davis’s stock for ACC Player of the Year grows, he’s the player to watch in this one. The last time Davis played, he broke a UNC record for most points in the Dean Smith Center (42). Being the last time he could be lacing up against NC State, fans in attendance and watching at home could be in store for another big outing.

Davis didn’t have a noteworthy stat line in the first game, finishing with 16 points, giving even more reason why a special performance could be on the horizon.

What you need to know

WHAT? North Carolina (22-6, 14-3 ACC) vs. NC State (17-11,9-8 ACC)
WHEN? Saturday, Mar. 2nd. 4:00 p.m. ET
WHERE? Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
TV? ESPN  (Watch and stream the game live on ESPN)
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
LAST MEETING? UNC won 67-54 on Jan. 10, 2024

Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire