Gottfried's gang faces huge challenge

Gottfried's gang faces huge challenge

Earlier this week, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. put on a historic performance. Can archival North Carolina prevent the freshman sensation from summoning another Herculean effort tonight?

The two squads square off in Chapel Hill at 8 p.m. ET. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Tar Heels odds of -1200 to take care of business at home. Conversely, Mark Gottfried’s troops enter the Smith Center as +700 underdogs.

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In a season that continues to see 18- and 19-year-olds grab headlines, the Wolfpack’s starting point guard has moved toward the head of the class. Smith became the first ACC freshman to record a triple-double against a conference foe in Wednesday’s 104-78 trouncing of No. 21 Virginia Tech. Besides scoring a game-high 27 points, the Fayetteville native hauled down 11 rebounds and dished out 11 assists.

Nonetheless, Smith should have a much tougher time carving up UNC. Roy Williams’ group barely staved off the Clemson Tigers, 89-86, in its most recent outing. Incentives abound, however, in a few hours. Not only are the Tar Heels playing in their first league contest on Tobacco Road, junior swingman Theo Pinson is finally returning from a nasty foot injury.

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To make matters worse, NC State has dropped 19 of the past 21 meetings with North Carolina. Smith might still light up the gym, but the host team’s athleticism and defensive prowess will keep everyone else in check. We forecast a fairly lopsided affair.

SATURDAY NCAA FREE PICK: NC STATE/NORTH CAROLINA UNDER 164 POINTS

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