<![CDATA[College Sports in North Carolina - Featured Stories]]>Fri, 13 Nov 2015 21:25:25 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[National Championship Preview: Duke vs. Wisconsin]]>Tue, 07 Apr 2015 00:50:47 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/national-championship-preview-duke-vs-wisconsinWhen Duke and Wisconsin met in Madison on December 3rd everyone said how it could be a Championship Game preview. Nonetheless, roughly four months later here we are with these same two teams, forty minutes away from crowning a national champion. At the Kohl Center back in December Duke unexpectedly handled the Badgers and cruised to a ten point victory (80-70).

            In looking ahead to Monday’s match-up, both teams are playing as well as they have all year and are much different from their first meeting. Duke has transitioned from a team that won games based off of its ability to just outscore teams. Although now one game away from their fifth championship Coach K’s squad’s defense was at times, throughout the tournament, looked just as reliable as its offense. In addition, Wisconsin is coming off the biggest win in college basketball this season, defeating the previously unbeaten Kentucky. This Badger team not only has proven its talent on both sides of the floor, but shown their resiliency after barely losing to Kentucky last year in the national semifinal game. Instead of rolling over this Bo Ryan led Wisconsin team fought their way back beating some of the same teams they had to get through last year, such as Oregon, Arizona, and then of course Kentucky. Between the duo of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker there is, and has been, no team these Badgers can’t beat. Due to the ability of these to score from inside and out they can handle any defensive scheme thrown their way.

Keys to Game:

Wisconsin will win if…they can handle Duke’s newfound defensive pressure. When these two teams met in December Duke was much different defensively. Wisconsin has found away to handle the pressure applied to them versus Arizona and Kentucky. There is no reason they can’t find a way to beat Duke’s defense as well. On the defensive end, if Wisconsin is to slow Duke’s offensive attack they will have to be able to contain Jahlil Okafor in one-on-one match-ups, something no team has been able to accomplish yet.

Duke will win its 5th title if… they can consistently come up with rebounds. Part of the reason Wisconsin was successful against Kentucky is that they were able to compete on the glass by boxing out on every single possession. Also, Duke will have to find a way to slow down at least either Kaminsky or Dekker. Back in December the Blue Devils were able to slow Kaminsky to an extent but that could be attributed to the fact that they didn’t have to worry as much about an injured Kaminsky. We know Okafor can bang inside but somebody will have to match-up with “Frank the Tank” in the post.

Stock Sez: Duke 79 Wisconsin 78. It won’t be easy but Okafor will go for 25 and 10 further solidifying his case for first overall pick and Duke hangs number 5 at Cameron. #StriveForFive


<![CDATA[Duke Prepares for a Title Run]]>Sat, 04 Apr 2015 20:06:23 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/duke-prepares-for-a-title-runThe Duke team that heads into Indianapolis this weekend is a much different one than the one that entered Charlotte two weeks ago for the first and second round. Two things have changed juristically since Duke’s ACC Tournament loss to Notre Dame: defense and Justise Winslow.

 According to KenPom.com during the regular season Duke ranked around 60th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Now entering the Final Four Duke ranks 18th. Throughout the regular season Duke won most of its games based purely off of its raw talent and ability to score from every spot on the floor. From Okafor’s post play, to Cook’s shooting, to Jones’s ability to do a little bit of everything Duke’s offense is yet to find a hole.

In addition, the X-factor as Duke enters its match-up with Michigan State this Saturday evening is without a doubt Justise Winslow. Over the course of the past two weeks Winslow has developed into the ultimate “Glue Guy” for Coach K’s Blue Devils. Winslow has done just about everything possible on both the offensive and defensive end. While playing in his hometown of Houston last weekend for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight Winslow averaged 18.5 points and seven rebounds per game. With the help in the boost in Winslow’s productivity Duke has seen itself add another offensive threat as well as a reliable defensive piece.

            In looking ahead to the match-up with Michigan State, this is not the first time these two teams have played each other this year. On November 18th, at the very beginning of the season, Duke and Michigan State met at a neutral site. Duke won the game by a ten point margin, 81-71, while in control of the lead and the tempo from start to finish. Although five months later two very different teams await the same match-up, yet this time at Lucas Oil Stadium  in Indianapolis with a chance to play for a championship on the line. Obviously just by looking at each team’s respective roster Duke has far more talent than Michigan State. Nonetheless, Michigan State has, according to Coach K, the best player in the tournament in point guard Travis Trice. Trice, who is averaging 15.3 points and 5.1 assists per game this season, will likely match-up against fellow point guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones. Also, Sparty’s Branden Dawson, averaging 9.1 rebounds per game, will be called upon to guard Justise Winslow along with battle Jahlil Okafor and Amile Jefferson for rebounds.  

            All in all, what will make or break Duke’s chances to play for its fifth championship is whether or not their defensive pressure can stay at the level it has been for their first four tournament games. Also, on the defensive end Cook and Jones will have to slow down Trice and his ability to hit big time shots for the Spartans. In addition, Michigan State will definitely be ready for Duke’s arsenal of offensive weapons. For this reason, the Blue Devils must be able to break down whatever defensive schemes Tom Izzo throws at them. Long story short if Duke can score 65 to 70 points they will win and get a chance to win their third title in Indy.

Stock Sez: Duke 72 Michigan State 60 

<![CDATA[NCAA Tournament Preview: Duke, UNC, NC State, and Davidson]]>Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:58:33 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/ncaa-tournament-preview-duke-unc-nc-state-and-davidsonDuke- 

Duke enters this year’s NCAA tournament looking to quickly erase any memories of their loss in the first round last year to Mercer. As a #1 seed in the South region Duke is amongst other top seeds such as #2 Gonzaga, #3 Iowa State, and #4 Georgetown. Duke finished their regular season on an eleven game win streak until losing in the ACC tournament semifinals against Notre Dame. Duke is led by All-Americans Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor. While Okafor is probably Duke’s most valuable player, Cook is without a doubt Duke’s most important player. Throughout the year Cook has been a leader on the floor for this young Duke team as the only senior receiving playing time. In addition, in conference play the Duke faithful have watched Justise Winslow turn into a major force on both ends of the floor for the Blue Devils. Winslow has met the mold of Duke’s x-factor, filling in the gaps when Cook or Okafor have had off nights. Although for Duke to go far in this year’s tournament the Blue Devils will need the best from all eight of the players in their rotation due to their lack of depth.

            Looking ahead to the tournament itself there is no team Duke cannot beat, even Kentucky. Despite being forced into a thin lineup at time never doubt Coach K’s ability to find a way for his team to win. Assuming a first round victory over Robert Morris, Duke would either play St. Johns or San Diego State. Duke players and fans remember well Duke’s last meeting against St. Johns in being the game Coach K recorded his 1000th victory after coming back from as much as a ten point deficit. Furthermore, if Duke were to make it to the Elite Eight they would likely play either Iowa State or Gonzaga. Both teams are potentially very dangerous to Duke’s chances at reaching the Final Four. While Gonzaga has become notorious for underachieving in March this year’s Bulldog squad is regarded by many to be as good as any other team under coach Mark Few. Gonzaga would be able to match up well with Duke due to its size down low as well as talent in the frontcourt led by point guard Kevin Pangos. Also, coming out of perhaps the toughest conference this year, the Big 12, a scrappy Iowa State team could find itself defeating Duke and punching its ticket to Indianapolis. All in all, no matter who Duke faces if they are to bring home a fifth championship to Durham they will have to prove that they can play solid defense for an entire forty minute game along with being efficient at the charity stripe where “Big Jah” shoots a dismal 51%.


It has been an up and down season for UNC. They have seen quality wins, bad losses, hot streaks and cold runs. Once the tournament arrives though, none of that matters. 68 teams are 0-0, and they all have the same goal: to win a national championship.

North Carolina certainly got an interesting draw bracket-wise. In the first round they get Harvard, a game that will be played Thursday night at 7:20 in Jacksonville. Despite the fact that Tommy Amaker’s squad has drawn blood two consecutive years in the big dance, the Crimson simply do not match up well at all with UNC when it comes to talent or playstyle. The Heels should handle this one pretty easily barring a catastrophic collapse, which would set up a second round matchup against either Wofford or Arkansas. Assuming the Razorbacks go through, this would have the potential to be one of the best games in the tournament. These two teams are almost mirror images of each other. Both are long, athletic, and fast-paced. The deciding factor in this one would possibly be 3-point shooting, as Arkansas relies on the three-ball to take their potent offense to the next level while UNC allows opponents to shoot less than 30% from behind the arc.

If the Tar Heels make it past the first weekend, who knows what could happen. Things get hard to predict at this point, but they would likely get some combination of Wisconsin, Arizona, and Baylor to advance to the final 4. These are all games that UNC would likely be underdogs in, but the Heels are hot, and the NCAA tournament is all about who is peaking at the right time. After making it to the ACC tournament final, it seems that the Tar Heels are doing just that.

Best Case Scenario- The Heels upset Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen and Arizona in the Elite Eight to make it all the way to the Final Four.

Worst Case Scenario- The bad UNC shows up and the Heel’s become Harvard’s newest victim in the first round.

Prediction- The Heels go down in round 2 in a close contest against Arkansas.

NC State-

NC State enters the 2015 NCAA Tournament as an 8-seed, and will take on LSU in the second round, on March 19.   This could mean trouble for the Wolfpack, as they face a team, in LSU, at about their skill level, and, if State can pull out a win, would face the number one seed in the East Region in Villanova.  NC State is capable of making a deep run in the tournament.  They have proven their ability to beat some of the best team’s College Basketball has to offer, defeating Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina handily (the latter two on the road).  However, NC State has also been wildly inconsistent over the course of the season, losing handily to Wake Forest, Clemson, and most recently, a bad loss to Boston College.  The question that must be answered is which Wolfpack team will show up – will it be the talented team that can beat anyone, or the underachieving team that comes out flat and uninspired?  If the best version of the Wolfpack shows up, then nothing is off the table.  NC State has the talent for a Final Four run, but to get there, the best version of NC State would need to show up for 5 straight games.  This will be a difficult task for NC State, but it is something that can possibly be accomplished. 

                To be at their best, NC State needs their trio of guards to lead the way.  Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey, and Ralston Turner form one of the top backcourts in the country, and when they are shooting well and scoring, NC State plays at a very high level.  If the Pack wants to make a run, it will need to be these guys who need to lead the way.  They can’t do it alone, though.  NC State will need their frontcourt to play at a high level.  The rotation of Beejay Anya, Lennard Freeman, Abdul-Malik Abu, and Kyle Washington will need to buckle down under the basket.  This will be key against the NBA-caliber frontcourt that LSU brings with them.  Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin combine for over 30 points and almost 20 rebounds per game.  Further, Mickey averages 3.6 blocks per game, and has totaled 107 blocks this season, 20 ahead of Anya, the ACC’s leading blocker.  NC State will need to match LSU’s inside game, and then allow Lacey, Barber and Turner to do what they do best, and score the ball.  The frontcourt group for the Wolfpack needs to rebound the ball and play a tough, physical game against the LSU bigs.  Overall, these two teams are similar.  They are both very talented squads, and both underachieved over the course of the season.  NC State beat some of the best teams out there, and LSU lost by merely 2 points to Kentucky.  The evenness of this matchup will make it a game that comes down to the wire, but if NC State rebounds the ball, and gets solid production from the frontcourt, specifically Anya, NC State should come out on top, and move on to the Round of 32 to play Villanova. 

                So, how far will NC State make it?  Well, it would not surprise anyone if NC State lost in their first game to LSU.  On the flip side, it would not be overly surprising to see State make a run to the Elite Eight.  This is a talented, but inconsistent team.  Inconsistency does not do well in March.  It is likely, if NC State wins against LSU, they will lost to Villanova, but if they can possibly squeak by to the Sweet 16, NC State will get a good matchup against a team such as Louisville or Northern Iowa, and if things continue, NC State has a chance to make an even deeper run.  Thursday night will certainly tell us a lot about whether or not NC State can make it far this postseason.  


With the exception of a tough loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinal to VCU (93-73) the Wildcats enter the tournament playing their best basketball all season. Davidson closed their regular season on a ten game winning streak including a twenty-seven point victory against VCU at home on senior night. Davidson is led by senior and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tyler Kalinoski. Kalinoski averaged 17 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game throughout the regular season to go along with 43% shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

            Looking ahead to the tournament, whoever has to face Davidson should view them as a legitimate threat. Davidson’s motion offense designed by Coach Bob McKillop fuels Davidson’s tremendous ability to move the ball and always take the best shot available. Although this Davidson team takes a lot of threes they also make a lot too. In addition, Davidson never forces a shot and despite an undersized lineup often finds lanes into the paint. Through this well-tuned offense Davidson lends itself to success in the postseason by always being in controlling and allowing very few turnovers (The only team that averages fewer turnovers per game is #1 seed Wisconsin).  Nonetheless, while Davidson is dangerous they are also a quite flawed on the defensive end when it comes to securing rebounds and battling in the post. The one thing this Davidson lacks that could really hurt them and prevent them is a reliable big man to match up against those of opposing teams on defense.

            All in all, look for the Wildcat offense to help carry this Davidson team past #7 seed Iowa in the first round. Although don’t be surprised if Davidson struggles significantly with match-ups in second round matchup against #2 seed Gonzaga.


<![CDATA[A Rivalry Continues as the Heels and the Wolfpack Meet Again]]>Tue, 24 Feb 2015 22:07:08 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/a-rivalry-continues-as-the-heels-and-the-wolfpack-meet-againTonight, a great in-state rivalry renews itself for the 228th time, as North Carolina State travels to take on the #15 North Carolina Tarheels.  In the first meeting between the two teams, in Raleigh, UNC escaped the upset bid from the Wolfpack, as Caleb Martin’s desperation tip at the buzzer missed by a matter of inches and Carolina won 81-79.  Now, a hungry Wolfpack team looking for another big win to bolster their tournament resume meets again with UNC, who has dominated the series in recent memory.  The Dean Dome will be loud and exciting tonight, in what is looking like it could be a pretty good game.

                The key to the game for UNC will be Marcus Paige.  Paige, in the first meeting between the two teams in January, had 23 points, made all 5 of his three pointers, and added in 9 assists and no turnovers.  This was the reason that UNC won the game, as Paige looked comfortable and played like the preseason All-American he was supposed to be.  If he can match this performance, then it would go a long ways in giving UNC a great chance at winning.  The Tarheels already own the clear advantage under the basket, so all they need is for Paige to step up and play like he is supposed to.  It would not be bad either for Carolina’s other guards (maybe Joel Berry, Nate Britt, and Justin Jackson) to give a little bit of production.

                While North Carolina may hold an advantage on the interior, NC State’s guard play has been a little better this season.  This is an aspect of the game that NC State will need to exploit, as the trio of Anthony Barber, Trevor Lacey, and Ralston Turner will, as they have been all season, the key playmakers for this team.  In fact, these three guards contribute 40.9 points per game, as well as a fair amount of assists.  The offense revolves around the trio of guards, and as of late, it has worked.  Lacey has been about as reliable as can be all season long, often coming through in clutch situations.  He leads the country in isolation points, proving that he is adept at creating shots for himself with ease.  Ralston Turner is the team’s main shooting threat, and seems to be coming out of a bit of a slump.  In the last two games, wins over Louisville and Virginia Tech, the senior is 6 for 12 from three, and has certainly gotten some confidence back after his streak of poor performances.  Speaking of confidence, there is nobody hotter than Cat Barber in the ACC right now.  Over the course of the last five games or so, Barber has become a lot more assertive in getting to the basket with his quickness, and also shooting.  He has improved immensely since he became more aggressive, scoring over 20 points in three of the last five games, while contributing tons of assists with only a few turnovers.  He was the key in the wins over Georgia Tech and Louisville, and is playing at a very high level.  Carolina will have their hands full defending the trio of guards who are all starting to play a little better.

                Underneath the basket is where UNC holds the biggest advantage in this game.  Carolina is second in the nation in offensive rebound percentage, rebounding over 40% of their misses.  This tends to be a problem for the Wolfpack.   Against Louisville, they were able to solve this problem.  Lennard Freeman started that game (and the VT game), and has provided a rebounding boost.  Also, Caleb Martin has stepped up his rebounding game as well, with over 30 rebounds in the last 4 games.  NC State also needs guys like Beejay Anya, Kyle Washington, and Abdul Malik Abu to have a strong inside presence in order to hang with the Tarheels.  Even if these five guys can perform at a high level tonight, it is a tall task to play with UNC’s frontcourt.  Carolina scored a mind-boggling 62 points in the paint in the overtime loss to Duke last week, and looked unstoppable underneath the basket.  Duke is similar to the Wolfpack in that they rely heavily on their guards, and the inside play is not the leading factor on their team.  Carolina will certainly look to attack the rim, both in scoring and offensive rebounding.  How many second chance opportunities they can score on will determine whether or not NC State can remain in a competitive state in this one.  The group of Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto, Isaiah Hicks, and Joel James is a group that can easily overmatch the weaker interior of the Pack.  NC State will need to hold UNC off the boards, and get out to the offensive end without UNC getting many second chances at the rim. 

                Prediction time.  Carolina has been on a bit of a cold streak lately.  Granted, they are losing to some of the best teams the ACC has to offer, but they have still dropped 4 of their last 6.  NC State is not on a much better streak, by the way, as they have lost 5 of their last 8 games.  This is without a doubt a huge game for NC State.  They have a chance to put themselves on the better side of the bubble, and have a chance to upend rival North Carolina.  The Tarheels, however, are at home, and will certainly come ready to play.  If their frontcourt plays the same way they did against Duke (or the way they have for most of the season), and they can get Marcus Paige going on the perimeter, this one could be a blowout.  I think NC State will keep the game close, but will not be able to withstand the strong interior play of their rival.  Another thing to note is that Roy Williams has lost just twice to NC State since becoming UNC’s head coach, so Carolina has controlled the series for quite a while now.  The Tarheels will pick up the win, 80-69.


<![CDATA[NC State vs. Wake Forest Preview]]>Tue, 03 Feb 2015 18:48:40 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/nc-state-vs-wake-forest-preview                North Carolina State and Wake Forest are both coming off exciting victories which both came down the final seconds.  NC State was busy blowing another game that they should have easily won, until Trevor Lacey hit a three pointer at the buzzer in overtime to secure a one point win.  Meanwhile, Wake Forest held off Virginia Tech after icing the game with some good free throw shooting (yes, you read that correctly) to close out the game.  Now, the two rivals face off for the final time this season in Winston-Salem, in an important game.

                While both teams have been through a close game just recently, both have also played a very riveting schedule in the last couple of weeks.  Wake, after defeating Georgia Tech, lost by three in overtime at Syracuse, by two at Clemson, and by six in double-OT to Florida State, then took down Virginia Tech at home.  Wake has played at a higher level than at the beginning of the year, and it shows in each of those games.  However, they were not able to pull off the win until the last one against VT. On the other side, the Wolfpack just recently ended a stretch of difficult games themselves.  After defeating Duke for a signature win they lost heartbreakers to North Carolina and Notre Dame, and got soundly defeated by Clemson at home.  They fell to 14-9 and 5-5 in the ACC, so the upcoming game against Wake Forest will be extremely important for them.  One more bad loss will likely send them off the bubble for the time being. 

                Now, the time has come to focus on the game at hand.  In the first meeting between the two teams in early December, NC State pulled away in the second half and picked up a 78-65 win in Raleigh.  Ralston Turner led the team in the win, scoring all 21 of his points in the second half, and got some help from Trevor Lacey and Anthony Barber down the stretch.  On the defensive end, the Wolfpack had trouble with Codi Miller-McIntyre, who led his team with 22 points and 7 rebounds.  What was interesting in that game was that Devin Thomas was largely a non-factor, fouling out after just scoring 10 points on 33% shooting.  These factors, apart from Miller-McIntyre playing well, all contributed to a win for State. 

                In order for Wake Forest to be successful tonight, it is inherent that they get the inside game working.  This means getting the ball inside early and often to Devin Thomas, who will be the most talented post player on the court.  He will need to play well and exploit an NC State frontcourt that has had some trouble rebounding the ball and scoring.  Thomas, a very well-polished post player, will likely draw a matchup from Kyle Washington, who while athletic, is beatable on the inside defensively.  Thomas has a way of underperforming at times, but he can also take over a game with his efficiency and rebounding.  He did so in Wake’s win over NC State last season, a game at Wake Forest, in which he had 16 points on 6-8 shooting, to go along with 10 rebounds.  If Thomas can do this, or maybe even more, then he can put his team in a good position to win the game.  Wake needs to take advantage inside, and let Thomas play like the star he can sometimes be.   If Konstantinos Mitoglou can throw in a solid game as well, it will go a long ways in helping his team win. 

                On the interior for NC State, rebounding will be key.  Sure, the Wolfpack big men know how to block shots, but at times, especially at crucial moments, they forget how to rebound.  They need to keep Devin Thomas off the offensive boards.  It’ll be interesting to see if NC State works Lennard Freeman into the game more, whose strong and physical frame allows him to be an excellent rebounder at times.  The Pack is undefeated when he grabs 10 or more rebounds per game.  Another interesting thing to watch will be the play of freshman Abdul-Malik Abu, whose late emergence has given his team some energy and some solid post play.  His athleticism, coupled with the size of Freeman and Beejay Anya, should at some point start to help in grabbing the rebounds.   These guys will guard Thomas all game, and will need to find him whenever a shot goes up to prevent tons of second-chance points for the Deacs.

                Now, time for a look at the backcourt.  NC State is led by a 3 guard attack of Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacey, and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber.  These guys score a majority of State’s points, and when they are hitting from three, can be lights out.  Barber showed this in the game against Georgia Tech, when he played the best game of his career.  He started playing with more of a look to score, and finished with 23 points on 9-12 from the field (4-5 from 3), adding 7 assists and only one turnover.  If Barber can step up his game, it will go a long way in helping out the whole team.  Then there is Trevor Lacey, who averages 16.6 points per game, and is one of the two sharpshooters for this team, the other being Ralston Turner.  Lacey is excellent at creating his own opportunities, and is the guy taking the shot for NC State at the end of games – obviously.  He plays 36 minutes per game, and leads the offense, much like Codi Miller-McIntyre for Wake Forest.  CMM is very efficient and can be a big-time scorer.  He made every shot he took in the win over Virginia Tech, and is very hard to stop when he gets going.  The 6-3, 195 pound guard can shoot and is excellent at getting into the lane and finishing through contact.  NC State will have to find somebody – Lacey, Turner, Dez Lee, Cody Martin – to step up and stop him if they want to win.  If Miller-McIntyre and the other Wake Forest guards are able to play at or above the level of their opponents’ guards, then they will most likely win.  Mitchell Wilbekin will need to help McIntyre in this one, but if they can get going, look for good things from Wake.

                Overall, the keys to the game for NC State are simple: get on the glass and get the trio of guards going.  If Turner and Lacey are hitting from three and Barber efficiently runs the offense, then they will play well enough to win.  For Wake, CMM and Wilbekin need to step up and at least match the play of State’s backcourt, and allow Devin Thomas to do what he does best – get the offensive rebounds and be a beast inside.  He should be able to do this against NC State’s big men. 

Prediction: This game could go either way, and will probably be close throughout.  I predict NC State to get off to a better start before Wake brings it closer and closer throughout the game.  When all is said and done, however, I think NC State walks out with a win.  74-68, Wolfpack.

<![CDATA[#15 UNC and NC State Both Look to Build Off of Impressive Wins in First Head to Head Matchup of the Season]]>Wed, 14 Jan 2015 21:10:09 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/15-unc-and-nc-state-both-look-to-build-off-of-impressive-wins-in-first-head-to-head-matchup-of-the-season                Both North Carolina and North Carolina State are coming off big wins, and are going into a faceoff with each other tonight.  On Saturday, UNC defeated then #5 Louisville due to second half and last second heroics from Marcus Paige.  This was Carolina’s best win of the season, against one of the better teams in the ACC.  On the other side, NC State also picked up its best win of the season, a home win against Duke, who was undefeated at the time.  With both teams coming off big wins, it will certainly be interesting to see which team can follow through and start up a winning streak.

                The season for UNC began with plenty of ups and downs, with losses to Iowa and Butler, but recently have lived up to their preseason expectations and potential.  With a narrow loss to Notre Dame and the win over Louisville, the Tarheels have been a lot more impressive as of late.  This is largely due to more consistency, especially from key players like Kennedy Meeks.  Meeks has been the Heels’ best player on the season 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.  He slimmed down in the offseason, which has obviously paid off.  Helping Meeks is Brice Johnson and JP Tokoto, who are two very athletic players capable of contributing a lot to their team.  The combination of these three players has helped UNC climb to second in the nation in terms of rebounding.  It will also likely to be these three players who Carolina will depend upon tonight, as they stack up very well with NC State’s big men, offensively and defensively.  With Marcus Paige dealing with a foot injury, and inconsistency from other guards, UNC needs them to play like they have been all season.   The frontcourt is an area where the Tarheels hold an advantage over their rivals from Raleigh.  While NC State’s big men were definitely impressive in the win over Duke, they still do not match up completely with UNC.  Just looking at each team’s starting lineups, this is clear to see.  The matchup with Meeks will likely be given to Kyle Washington, while Brice Johnson will likely be defended by Abdul-Malik Abu, an athletic freshmen who just recently earned a starting spot for the Wolfpack.  On top of that, JP Tokoto and Justin Jackson will need to be defended, and will draw Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey.  This could create some mismatches, especially for whoever is matched up with Tokoto.  Carolina holds the advantage inside, and will need to exploit it in order to earn a victory in Raleigh.

                For NC State, three things must be done in order to win.  These three things are the same three that State executed well against Duke.  The first is three-point shooting.  NC State holds the advantage here when compared to Carolina.  Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner will have to continue to be efficient against Carolina, much like they have been all season. On Sunday against Duke, they led the Pack to 10 of 16 from three point land, and an overall shooting percentage of 55%.  If the two shooters can be deadly from beyond the arc, it will greatly increase NC State’s chances of winning.  The second thing NC State must do well is play defense.  Through ACC play, NC State has held opponents to about 37% shooting, and have been able to force turnovers.  They have held opposing guards back, and have played solidly underneath.  Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber will guard Marcus Paige, and he needs to keep him out of the game, and allow NC State to hold the advantage in the backcourt.  Lastly, State needs the frontcourt to play like they did against Duke.  Beejay Anya had a career game last time out, and he could draw an assignment with Meeks or any other Carolina bigs.  Lennard Freeman will need to contribute on the glass, something which he can do very well.  NC State is undefeated when Freeman grabs 8 or more rebounds in a game, so his underneath play is key.  Kyle Washington and Malik Abu will have to contribute offensively and defensively, and be efficient in scoring.  To sum all of this up, if NC State plays with the same energy and efficiency as they did in the win over Duke, they will likely pick up a second huge win in just as many games. 

                Prediction time: NC State should be able to outplay Carolina on the perimeter.  They have done it all year long to other teams, and will probably keep it up tonight.  However, it will be very difficult for State to match up with UNC’s talent in the frontcourt.  Kennedy Meeks should have a big night, as will JP Tokoto, who could be the key to the game.  Creating mismatches underneath the basket, Carolina will be able to post up NC State’s defenders, rebound the ball, and outplay their rivals.  It will be a close game throughout, and Carolina, who holds a 22-2 record against NC State since 2003, will walk out with a win.  77-70, UNC wins.

<![CDATA[NC State Hands Duke it's First Loss in Convincing Fashion]]>Tue, 13 Jan 2015 00:38:49 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/nc-state-hands-duke-its-first-loss-in-convincing-fashionDuke’s woes playing in PNC Arena continued on Sunday with an 87-75 loss to NC State, in a game which was controlled by the Wolfpack from start to finish.  NC State got a huge effort from their two main playmakers, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, as well as a great game from the post players to secure a win over the then number 2 team in the nation.  For the Blue Devils, Jahlil Okafor again delivered a great performance, scoring 23 points and adding 12 rebounds, along with 3 steals and 3 blocks.  His team saw its first loss of the season, and dropped to number 4 in the AP Poll as a result, while North Carolina State picked up its signature win of the season, something that it needed to get in a tough stretch of games.

                The game started well for both teams, and Duke was able to build a lead as large as seven in the first half.  The Devils crashed the boards and looked a lot more complete with Okafor on the floor, who turned in an extremely efficient performance, something nobody else on Duke did.  Okafor did plenty of damage in the first half of this game, but NC State cracked down in the second half, constantly double teaming him and keeping him more out of the game than before.  This was key for the Wolfpack, as during their second half run, which at one point extended the lead to 19 points, they were able to keep Duke’s offense at bay by controlling its best player.

                Other than Okafor, the only bright spot for Duke was the play of Quinn Cook, the senior leader of this team, who outplayed all his teammates other than the big freshman underneath the basket.  Cook contributed 18 on 6 of 13 shooting (4-7 from three), as well as 4 assists.  Cook, after the game, stated his dislike for playing in Raleigh, a place where he has never won at.  Duke lost almost exactly two years ago when they were undefeated, and also lost to Mercer in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, a game played in PNC Arena.  Cook did just about all he could for the rest of the team, but other than him and Okafor, Duke was a mere 10 of 41 from the floor.  As a team, Duke shot just about 37%, which was not nearly enough to contend with the Wolfpack and their high-powered attack.

                NC State outplayed Duke in just about all aspects of the game, and what was most impressive was the play of Trevor Lacey, as well as the play of State’s big men, specifically Beejay Anya.  Trevor Lacey was just one part of NC State’s accurate shooting performance from downtown, as he went 5-7 from 3 and teammate Ralston Turner was 4-7.  Total, NC State was 10-16 from three, a very impressive game.  Lacey contributed a couple impressive step-back threes, including one to cap off NC State’s run towards the end of the game, extending the lead to a game best 19 points for the Pack.  He shot a very efficient 61.5 percent, and was incredible throughout the entire game.  He and Turner have led the charge offensively for the young NC State team, and did so again yesterday.  Perhaps the biggest performer yesterday was the biggest guy on the court, Beejay Anya.  The big sophomore had the best and most complete game of his career, playing great defense (guarding Okafor a lot), blocking 4 shots and grabbing 6 total rebounds, while scoring 14 points on 75% shooting.  Anya has a way of firing up the home crowd, and did so yesterday, especially with a monster putback dunk at the end of the game to finally put an end to a final push from Duke to stay undefeated.  Duke was able to pull the game within 7 points with a couple minutes left after NC State went up 19, but the Wolfpack held together and completed the big victory. 

                While NC State did dominate the game for the most part, some positives can be drawn from it for Duke.  They did pick up their first loss of the season, leaving Kentucky and Virginia as the only undefeated teams left in the nation, but this can be viewed as a positive.  The extremely young and talented team got a taste of a difficult road matchup, and also figured out that they are not in fact invincible.  This can be important.  The freshmen now know what it is like to lose, and will most definitely learn from the game as a whole.  This is certainly not the end of the world for Duke.  Quinn Cook will continue to lead the team, and Rasheed Sulaimon and other perimeter shooters will play better for the remainder of the season.  Jahlil Okafor will continue to dominate inside, as he is one of the better – if not the best – player in the country. 

                For Mark Gottfried’s team, also a youth-filled team, this is a huge win.  In the midst of a very difficult three game stretch, they were able to pick up a signature win that will help them when they are most likely a bubble team come March.  NC State played its best game of the year, as 9 players scored, and the team shot 55% from the field as a whole.  Everyone played a crucial part in the win, and made big plays to secure the victory. 

                Next up, the Wolfpack will host rival UNC at 7:00 on Wednesday.  This is another opportunity for NC State, in a winnable home game, to insert themselves as a contender in the ACC.  If State plays the same way with the same type of enthusiasm, they will walk out with a win.

                Meanwhile, Duke will get a home matchup against a solid Miami squad that has shown some potential this season.  After a couple tough road games, they will look to win this game before a showdown at Louisville on Saturday, one of their biggest games of the season.  

<![CDATA[N.C. State Hosts Wake Forest in an Early Season ACC Matchup]]>Sat, 06 Dec 2014 22:23:40 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/nc-state-hosts-wake-forest-in-an-early-season-acc-matchup
Tonight, a huge in-state matchup will be played in Raleigh as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons pay a visit to PNC Arena to take on the Wolfpack of NC State.  Being the first ACC game for each team, as well as the first game between two ACC teams at all this season, this game will have a large impact for both teams.  The winner rises immediately to the top of the standings, while the loser falls to the bottom.  While it is strange to see a conference game so early in the season, this matchup should be a good one, and it will give early insight into the competitive nature of both teams come ACC play.

For Wake Forest, tonight is a huge game.  So far this year, the Demon Deacons are 4-4 and are coming off a recent home loss to Minnesota in the Big 10-ACC Challenge.  Wake Forest has certainly not gotten off to the greatest of starts, and it showed in the Minnesota game, as sloppy defense, turnovers, and an all-around lack of spirit led to a 15 point loss.  So far this year, Wake has seen other losses like this one, and they are looking to rebound against NC State tonight.  In order to rebound, Wake will likely need their guards to step up.  In one of last year’s contests with NC State, Codi Miller-McIntyre dropped 20 points on 7-11 shooting, as well as the game winning layup as time expired to seal a win vs. the Wolfpack.  When Wake visited NC State, Miller-McIntyre was the only guy who kept the Deacs in the game, scoring 15 points this time on 6-10 from the field.  Last year, NC State had trouble shutting him down, and if Wake wants to win today, they will need to get him going early and often.  Another presence that will help the guard play of Wake is freshman PG Mitchell Wilbekin, who logged an impressive 33 minutes against Minnesota, but failed to provide a spark offensively.  So far this season, in wins for the Deacons, Wake has seen consistent and efficient play from both of these guards, and that will need to happen tonight for Wake to win.  Meanwhile, we can’t forget about Devin Thomas, is a player who has played exceptionally well against NC State in recent years.  Inside this year, the Wolfpack have been solid defensively and offensively.  If Thomas is going to decide this game, it will be with his work on the offensive glass.  If he is able to get rebounds inside and score on second chance opportunities, then it will help Wake out tremendously.  Thomas, Miller-McIntyre, and Wilbekin will be key players in deciding where the game goes tonight.

Now we look at the home team.  NC State has started off the season 6-1, with the only loss coming at Purdue, a game which was lost in the final minutes.  The Wolfpack are 6-0 at home this season, and have shown some promise in all aspects of the game so far.  The big question coming into the season was how the Wolfpack would fare without TJ Warren in the lineup.  They have answered that question with lots of production from lots of different players.  NC State has seen Anthony Barber, Kyle Washington, Ralston Turner, and others step up this year.  However, the most production comes from Trevor Lacey, an outside threat who has solid point guard skills as well.  Lacey’s clutch performances have led the Wolfpack to wins, and almost gave them a win against Purdue on Tuesday night.  At times, State’s offense has looked a little off when Lacey is not playing great, or when he is not getting the ball.  He is a dangerous outside threat and can decide the game easily, especially in the closing moments.  However, paying too much attention to him allows for others to step up, most specifically Anthony Barber, who has shown glimpses of his full potential, and Ralston Turner, another outside threat to be aware of.  This puts opposing teams in quite a dilemma, as anyone can step up at any given time.  Wake Forest will have to counter this offensive attack by first taking out Lacey, but also taking out a couple other offensive threats for NC State.  These guys would be Barber and Washington, who are both difficult to defend.  Washington’s versatility makes him dangerous for other teams.  NC State should look to use him in a larger role, and he could very well be a deciding factor today, especially on the offensive end. 

Overall, this is a game that NC State should win.  Inside, the Wolfpack are strong, as with the presence of Beejay Anya, they 10th in the nation in rebounds and 16th in blocks per game.  If they can dominate the inside and take Devin Thomas out of the game, then they will have a huge advantage.  Wake’s guards have been shaky this year, and if State can exploit that on both ends of the court, then they should win.  Perhaps the biggest factor in this game is location.  NC State has won 8 straight matchups with their in-state rivals when the game is played in Raleigh.

Final Score Prediction: NC State 79, Wake Forest 68

Game Info-

Time- 7:30 P.M.

Location- Raleigh, N.C.


<![CDATA[Wake Forest vs. Duke Football Preview]]>Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:29:38 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/wake-forest-vs-duke-football-previewIs it really a rivalry game when Duke and Wake Forest face off? On the final Saturday of the season, the 2 teams in the state who aren’t typically football powerhouses are slated to fulfill their rivalry week requirement in Durham. In recent years, these two programs have taken two very different paths. Wake has been on a consistent decline, resulting in the resignation of Head Coach Jim Grobe, while Duke has experienced a renaissance of sorts, making an ACC championship game appearance last season and currently sitting at 8-3. However, those trends are reversed when we examine the teams coming into this game.

Duke blew their chance at an ACC championship berth this season with back to back losses against inferior opponents Virginia Tech and UNC. Wake Forest just scored their first ACC win under Dave Clawson in a 6-3 double OT thriller against that same Virginia Tech team. Anthony Boone has struggled in both outings and that could be a cause for concern in this game against a strong Wake Forest defense. Boone has put up QBR’s of 19.7 and 38.2 against VT and UNC respectively. The defense didn’t do them any favors either, allowing the Tar Heels to put up nearly 600 yards of offense.

The bright spot is that the Demon Deacon offense poses absolutely no threat. They rank last in the nation in rushing, next to last in scoring, and 111th in passing. It’s abysmal. John Wolford has played well under center, but the offensive line is so young that they just haven’t been able to hold up. This bodes well for the Blue Devils, who have forced almost 2 turnovers and 2 sacks per game on the defensive side of the ball. Wolford will be under pressure as always, and mistakes will happen.

Wake Forest has momentum and Duke doesn’t. It is somewhat true that neither team really has anything to play for. However, this is senior day for arguably the most important senior class in program history for Duke. This group of players has helped revive a program that was by far the worst in the ACC and made it into a legitimate contender in the conference. This will be the last time that Anthony Boone, Josh Snead, Jamison Crowder, and countless others take the field at Wallace Wade Stadium. And it will be the first time Wake Forest has lost at Wallace Wade Stadium since 1999.

Prediction: Duke 17, Wake 10

Game Info-

Kickoff: 7 P.M.


Location: Durham, NC]]>
<![CDATA[UNC vs. NC State Football Preview]]>Sat, 29 Nov 2014 15:42:04 GMThttp://www.nccollegesports.com/featured-stories/unc-vs-nc-state-football-previewToday, Rivalry Week will see a great in-state matchup between longtime rivals, as North Carolina plays host to NC State in Chapel Hill.  Both teams enter the game at 6-5, and both have already clinched a bowl game, but this game runs much deeper than merely the record of both teams.  Both teams go in determined and always give a great game to the fans.  Recently, the Tarheels have had the upper hand, as they have won the last two meetings between the teams, including a 27-19 victory last season in Raleigh.  This year, both teams have performed well enough to earn bowl appearances, but both teams have gotten to this point in different ways.

North Carolina enters the game, again, 6-5, with an impressive ACC record of 4-3.  After being ranked to start the season, Carolina fell to 2-4 early on, after a four game losing streak.  During this stretch, they certainly did play up to their potential, which we have seen in more recent games.  Since starting the year poorly, UNC has won 4 of its last 5 games, and has played very well lately, with some big wins over Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Duke.  They most recently defeated the Blue Devils in convincing fashion, dominating their rival on the way to a 45-20 win in Durham.  This hot streak has seen plenty of shootouts, forcing UNC to score plenty of points, which they have done all season, averaging over 36 points per game, good enough for 20th in the country in that category.  This high scoring will likely continue today, as neither Carolina’s nor NC State’s defense is very impressive.  UNC will definitely look to QB Marquise Williams to carry them in this one, as he did last season in the win over the Wolfpack.  Williams has had a great season, and going into the final game, will look to cap off the season with a strong victory for his team.  UNC will need to take advantage of a weak NC State defense, and set the offense loose with Williams at the helm.  They will also probably need a big performance from their leading receiver Ryan Switzer and RB TJ Logan as well.  These guys need to step up and have strong games against State’s defense.  To win this game, UNC needs to score to get the home crowd behind them and to force NC State to score on almost every possession, and to play a complete game, something the Wolfpack have had trouble doing this season.

            For North Carolina State, today is a very important game.  A win over their most hated rival would give them something to celebrate to end the season, and would easily earn them a better bowl game.  NC State, on the opposite spectrum from UNC, started the year 4-0, before entering ACC play and going 0-4 at the start.  This losing streak included some close losses, but also some games that NC State had an easy chance to win.  They had trouble finishing games, and oftentimes could not play a complete game throughout, as turnovers and lack of offensive production ended up losing many games.  After a much needed bye week, NCSU won 2 of the next 3 games, with the two wins over Syracuse and Wake Forest getting them a bowl game.  In those two games, and in the entire season, the offensive playmakers for the Wolfpack stepped up, as we saw efficient and turnover free games from Jacoby Brissett and a very strong rushing attack from the Wolfpack running game.  Matt Dayes, Shadrach Thornton, and Tony Creecy, along with Brissett, have led this attack.  Thornton has had a great year, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, as has Matt Dayes.  Dayes, however, has contributed in more than the running game, as he is second on the team in receptions and leads the team in total touchdowns.  Dayes is no doubt the catalyst of this offense, but Brissett is where it all starts.  NC State needs these guys to step up today and keep them in the game, in what is likely to be a high scoring affair.  If State cannot play a complete game on offense, without turnovers, then UNC will take advantage and take a lead. 

            In what should be an exciting, high scoring shootout between these two rivals, it could all come down to a few plays.  These plays could be turnovers, or momentum turning games which will decide the course of the game.  Both teams will come out ready to win, and both offenses should come out firing.  However, Carolina, playing at home, will have chances early on to take plenty of momentum and will probably be able to use this to their advantage.  NC State has been bad on the road this year, and this will probably show today.  They will stay in the game, but will not do enough to win. 
Final Score Prediction: UNC 38, NCSU 29

Game Info- 

Kickoff- 12:30

TV: ACC Network

Location: Chapel Hill, NC]]>