North Carolina is catching its midseason stride at the right time. After losing its first two ACC games, it went on and won its last three consecutive conference games. The Tar Heels look to make it four in a row as they travel to Raleigh, N.C., to take on No. 18 ranked NC State in the college basketball game of the week.
This won't be an easy test for UNC because NC State looks to bounce back after a disappointing road loss to Wake Forest. If North Carolina is going to win this game, it needs James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige to play their best on Saturday.
James Michael McAdoo
McAdoo's scoring versatility and rebounding tenacity has been key for the Tar Heels this season. He can shoot from all over the court and is averaging 15.7 points over North Carolina's last three ACC wins.
McAdoo's ability to score down low will be important for the Tar Heels, since NC State has good big men that will defend him well. Also, McAdoo needs to dominate the glass. The Tar Heels rank first in the country with 43 rebounds per game, whereas the Wolfpack ranks 102nd. McAdoo leads North Carolina with 8.3 rebounds per game, which is fifth in the ACC.
His ability to score points and grab boards will be crucial for UNC's success on Saturday.
Bullock has been a very effective outside shooter for the Tar Heels this season. He shoots 46 percent from three-point range, which ranks second in the ACC. Bullock's ability to knock down outside shots will be important against NC State.
He needs to continue to play well on the defensive end. NC State has many good players and he will need to shutdown a player like guard Lorenzo Brown.
Finally, if the game comes down to free throws, then Bullock is a player you want on the charity stripe. He shoots 86 percent from the free-throw line. Bullock needs to start hitting outside shots early, so that the Tar Heels can get the raucous NC State crowd out of the game.
Paige needs to facilitate the offense and play smart against the Wolfpack. He needs to keep the offense under control and not make mistakes on the court. Paige averages 2.5 turnovers per game, which needs to be limited on Saturday.
The main thing that Paige can do to exploit the Wolfpack defense is to use his speed on transition offense and get easy buckets. Paige needs be that floor general that makes the players around him better. If he can do that, then the Tar Heels can head back to Chapel Hill happy.
These three players are important for UNC because of the different elements they provide on the court. They need to have a good game, in order for the Tar Heels to come away with the victory. Beating NC State on the road won't be easy, but can be done.