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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What to watch: N.C. State at UNC

Posted by on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 4:16 PM

N.C. State travels to Chapel Hill to face the No.3 North Carolina Tar Heels who have been on a tear winning their last nine games.

The resurgent Wolfpack looks to bolster its post-season resume with a marque win over the conference leader.

Here are a few subplots to watch for tonight:

  1. The much anticipated return of Tyler Zeller -- will it solidify the only glaring weakness of the Tar Heels or will it mess up team chemistry?  Zeller scored 18 points in his first game as a Tar Heel against Penn, so the success of his return will probably be judged based on his point production.  But pay attention to the play of the other interior players and the fatigue of the team down the stretch as Zeller's shot might be rusty.
  2. N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe has mixed things up during the Wolfpack's winning stretch.  Javier Gonzalez is back starting at point guard -- a persistent position of struggles for the Pack in 2009.  Also, Lowe has cut his rotation to roughly eight players, which might be a strain against the up-tempo Tar Heels.
  3. Will Tyler Hansbrough get back on track?  In the last matchup, Hansbrough scored 31 points and the Wolfpack decided not to double team him -- a perplexing risk that didn't pay off.  Hansbrough has struggled lately, scoring only 15, 17 and eight points in his last three games, respectively.  Buster sports writer Andrew Jones reported a possible aggravated shin injury as a link to Hansbrough's lack of production.  
  4. Will Courtney Fells go off again?  The Tar Heels have a habit of letting a single player destroy their defense -- see Miami's Jack McClinton.  Fells scored 22 points in the first game in Raleigh and made four 3-pointers that seemed to be the only factor keeping the Wolfpack in the game.  
  5. Expect the game to be chippy after the Mike Copeland and Ben McCauley incident in Raleigh.  The Wolfpack will come in hungry for this game, and composure might be an issue down the stretch for both teams.  

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