NC State completed the rare three-game season sweep over Boston College in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack will try to be avoid being swept in three chances by North Carolina, the regular-season ACC Champions, in the semifinals of the tournament at 1 p.m. today.
The Pack have looked solid in their first two games of the ACC Tournament while playing out of the No. 5 seed, and recorded victories over Boston College and Virginia en route to making a stronger case for the NCAA Tournament selection committee and earning a third crack at their most heated rivals.
State, who is 9-11 against the top seed in the ACC Tournament, is vying to help coach Mark Gottfried join Press Maravich (1964-65), Herb Sendek (1996-97) and Sidney Lowe as first year coaches who led the Pack to the ACC Tournament finals. Maravich is the only one who won the crown in his first opportunity, and the Pack will be looking to secure its 23 rd victory for just the second time in its last 23 seasons (the team won 23 games in 2001-02).
Saturday marks the 222nd meeting all-time between the rival schools and the Tar Heels own a 146-75 advantage in the series. However, both offenses are among the best in the league - State ranks third with an average of 73.6 points per game while the Heels lead the ACC at 82.4.
Led by point guards Kendall Marshall and Lorenzo Brown, the teams rank 1-2 in the ACC for assists (the Pack's average of 16.2 trails the Heels' 17.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (State's ratio of 1.3 is just behind Carolina's 1.5).
Although Carolina has topped the Pack in their previous two chances this season, Brown and forward C.J. Leslie have come up big against the nation's No. 4 team. The sophomore duo combine to average 29.5 points during the four career match-ups. Leslie recorded a career-high 24 points in the home loss to UNC earlier this year while Brown posted his season-high of 20 points last year at North Carolina and then tallied 18 in the loss at home this year. Brown also averages 6.3 assists against the Heels in his four chances.
Leslie, especially, has been on fire lately. The second-year star is averaging 17.4 points and 10.6 rebounds over the last nine games and he has recorded six double-doubles in his last nine outings, including four straight.
Gottfried, who recorded his 300th career victory yesterday, has now put up the second-best debut in NC State basketball history. The 22-11 record marks the second-most victories for a first-year coach at the school, trailing only the legendary Everett Case, whose 1946-47 squad went 26-5 and won the Southern Conference regular season and tournament championships. State hasn't won the conference tournament since 1987.
North Carolina, who has won 12 straight over the Pack, could be without star John Henson, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year. In his team's 85-69 win over Maryland on Friday, the first-team All-ACC selection sprained his left wrist after falling to the court on a drive to the basket. The forward briefly returned to the game before exiting once again and watching the rest of the game from the bench. Henson averages 13.8 points and an ACC-best 10.1 rebounds per game.
North Carolina preview
NC State (22-11, 9-7 ACC) vs. North Carolina (28-4, 14-2 ACC)
Game time: Saturday, March 10, 1 p.m. - Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga.
Television: ACC Network/ESPNU
PG - 2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 189, Soph., 12.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.7 spg)
SG - 21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 224, Sr., 10.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg)
SF - 15 Scott Wood (6-6, 175, Jr., 12.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF - 5 C.J. Leslie (6-8, 209, Soph., 14.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.7 bp, 1.1 apg)
C - 1 Richard Howell (6-8, 250, Jr., 10.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg)
G - 5 Kendall Marshall(6-4, 195, So., 7.4 ppg, 9.7 apg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 spg)
G - 35 Reggie Bullock (6-7, 205, So., 8.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 apg)
F - 40 Harrison Barnes (6-8, 215, So., 17.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 spg)
F - 31 John Henson (6-11, 220, Jr., 13.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.9 bpg)
C - 44 Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250, Sr., 16.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 apg)
Scouting North Carolina
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Nickname: Tar Heels
2010-11 record: 29-8, 14-2 ACC
2011 postseason: Reached the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: Roy Williams, 671-167 overall (24th year), 253-66 at Carolina (ninth year)
Series: North Carolina leads 146-75
Last meeting: No. 7 North Carolina won 86-74 in Raleigh on Feb. 21
North Carolina: Point guard Kendall Marshall broke the ACC's single-season assists record in yesterday's game after he recorded 12; he now has 311 on the year ... Marshall has 14 games with 10 or more assists, just one contest behind Chris Corchiani's ACC record of 15 (1990-91) ... Marshall's average of 9.72 assists per game is the best in ACC single-season history and the eighth-best in NCAA history ... UNC is now 87-40 in ACC Tournament play, 10-4 when the event is in Atlanta, and 46-13 as a No. 1 seed ... The Tar Heels are playing in the semifinals for the seventh time in eight years and the 45th time in 59 ACC Touranments; they are 30-14 in the semifinals ... With John Henson out due to a wrist injury in the last round, freshman forward James Michael McAdoo netted 14 points, his first game against ACC competition scoring in double figures ... The Heels have limited opponents to shooting under 40 percent nine times in the last 14 tilts ... UNC is 19-0 when holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting and 9-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor ... The team has enjoyed two straight games with at least five players in double-digit scoring ... UNC has outrebounded its opponents in 13 of the past 14 games.
NC State: The Wolfpack is now 5-5 in the ACC Tournament as the No. 5 seed, 6-4 when the event is held in Atlanta and 3-0 this season at Philips Arena ... The Pack is also 9-11 all-time against the ACC Tournament's top seed ... NC State is looking for its 23rd win of the year, which would mark the most for the school since 2001-02 (23); the Pack has recorded 23 wins just once over the last 23 seasons ... State has won four in a row, its best stretch since winning six straight over St. Bonaventure, Northeastern, Campbell, Western Carolina, Delaware State and Maryland ... Four-straight wins over ACC foes is the most over conference opponents since 2005-06 (four) ... NC State has outscored its opponents 262-213 in the paint over the past seven games ... The Pack has won the points in the paint battle the last six games and in 13 of the 18 games against ACC competition this campaign ... State outscored Carolina in the paint, 42-22 in their 86-74 loss in February ... Mark Gottfried joins Everett Case, Press Maravich, Herb Sendek and Sidney Lowe as first-year Pack coaches to win their first two games at the ACC Tournament.