Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/10/12

For the second day in a row UNC will play against an opponent in the tournament that they have met twice during the regular season, a No. 1 North Carolina (28-4 ~ 14-2 in the ACC) will play No. 5 North Carolina State (22-11 ~ 9-7 in the ACC), with tip off at 1:00 p.m. EST in Philips Arena, televised by ESPN (Dan Shulman & Fran Fraschilla), ACC Network (Tim Brant & Mike Gminski) and on the computer on ESPN3. For head coach Roy Williams, who has never much liked this post season tournament, today will be about playing against an in-state arch-rival as well as keeping an eyes on John Henson, if he was to play after the wrist injury he suffered against Maryland. And while I doubt that the Atlantic Coast Conference front office might not want to hear this, the reality is that Carolina will not risk Henson in order to win a game this week when all are waiting for next week to come along.

As I said before Carolina has beaten State twice this season, first at the Dean Dome by the final of 74 to 55 and then at the RBC Center with the final being 86 to 74. The Heels have been dominant against the Wolfpack for more than just this season having won 12 straight over the in-state rival and 18 out of the last 19. With State still being on the proverbial bubble, knowing that UNC will be either without Henson or with the big man not at his best, you know that they will be coming out to win this one at all costs.

In this season’s second game versus NC State it was the coming out party for Kendall Marshall, where for the first time he led the Tar Heels in scoring, having a double double with 22 points, hitting 4 out of 5 treys, and 13 assists. If Henson can not play once again the back court, who played well yesterday, needs to once again play at its best. Meaning that Marshall will once again have to be the floor general he has been all season long, looking for the open man and, maybe more importantly in this game, hitting his shot when it is open. Meanwhile Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston have to choose the right shots and hit them, while Harrison Barnes, who scored 20 points in the last outing against the Wolfpack, will have to mix shooting from the outside, taking a dribble and shooting and driving the lane. On defensive side the guards will have to deal with junior guard Mike Scott, who has been on fire from beyond the arc, hitting 46.9% of his shots (15 of 32) in the last four games.

In the front court expect to see Tyler Zeller step it up, whether or not Henson can play, as he has put this team on his back several times during the season and will do so once again in this one. The one thing that the senior center has to do is stay away from foul trouble, especially if Henson can not play. From all the news Henson’s wrist was not broken, but I am sure that no one wants him to risk if he does not have to. The good news is that James McAdoo did a good job in replacing him in yesterday’s game, as the freshman scored in double digits. Where the drop off is going to come is when Desmond Hubert enters the game, as he has not seen much playing time and it showed against Maryland.

The Vegas insiders have North Carolina as a 9 points favorite, which I have to say with even a partly ok Henson could be pretty much spot on, but if the big man was not to play I am not sure that the spread would be so wide. I think that in the end UNC will win this one, with the final score begin 75 to 70, as the guards once again step it up and Zeller has another one of his double double performances. The interesting thing is if both favorites of the semis win today UNC will take on Duke tomorrow, making it three out of three games that Carolina will be playing against a squad they saw twice in the regular season.

(Side Note: The two simulators are not being put in the post since they both have Henson playing)

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