NS: If the Wolfpack backcourt feeds Yurtseven, he should be able to have success in the paint; however, don’t forget that the Turkish center has developed a killer jump shot and isn’t afraid to let it fly from beyond the arc. Yurtseven isn’t the most aggressive rebounder, but against the smaller lineup he could flourish as the lone 7-footer.
DTH: Who are some other Wolfpack players that fans should keep an eye on?
Redshirt junior guard Torin Dorn is the glue that keeps this team together. In head coach Kevin Keatts’ four-guard scheme, Dorn often finds himself in the power forward position. Though he stands only 6-foot-5, he is averaging a team high 7.0 rebounds per game. He will often get second-chance points off the glass and isn’t afraid to be aggressive in the lane.
Redshirt senior forward Lennard Freeman and first-year guard Lavar Batts Jr. both bring energy off the bench. Freeman has had success in the pick-and-roll this season, while Batts provides a spark plug off the bench thanks to his speed and defensive intensity. He came up with some big plays against No. 2 Duke on Jan. 6 and could play a big role against the Tar Heels.
DTH: N.C. State is No. 32 in the nation in turnover margin this season. What makes them so strong defensively?
NS: Keatts often implements a full-court press which agitates opposing teams; in fact, the Wolfpack has already surpassed last year’s season steal total of 162. Having sophomore guard Markell Johnson on the perimeter helps as he is averaging a team-high 2.2 steals per game. N.C. State hasn’t locked down from beyond the arc in its past two games, but if its backcourt can limit outside shots the Wolfpack will maintain its defensive intensity.
DTH: Although the Tar Heels go small often, they are the second leading team in the country in rebound margin (11.6). What will it take for the Wolfpack to keep them off the backboards?
NS: Senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu, Freeman and Yurtseven need to have their best rebounding games of the year. Abu is having a slow start to his senior campaign, only averaging 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game through 15 contests. Freeman and Yurtseven aren’t the most aggressive rebounders, but if they can limit offensive rebounds then the Wolfpack could possibly have a shot in the Smith Center.
DTH: What’s your final score prediction for this game?
NS: N.C. State has a knack for playing to the competition of its opponent. The Wolfpack defeated ranked foes Duke and Clemson, but had to mount a comeback effort against a weak Pittsburgh squad on Wednesday. If the Wolfpack’s big men can stay out of foul trouble, Keatts’ coaching can keep the team in this contest; however, UNC head coach Roy Williams simply doesn’t lose to N.C. State.
The Tar Heels are 27-3 against the Wolfpack under Williams. There’s extra motivation to get the victory on Saturday due to UNC’s surprising 80-69 loss to Virginia Tech on Monday. It’s hard to imagine how the Tar Heels won’t make the correct adjustments on Saturday against the Wolfpack. Veteran leaders Joel Berry II and Luke Maye will rally the squad and lead their team to victory. I’ll go with UNC pulling away in the second half to win 85-68.
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