The NC State Women's Basketball team celebrates a three pointer in the last quarter of the game versus the UNC Tar Heels on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 72-45.

As much as some Tar Heels fans may hate to admit it, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill are rivals. That’s just a fact. And with the two schools set to clash on the court twice in just 26 hours, this weekend has the potential to make one of the two fan bases immensely happy while dooming the other to no shortage of social media abuse.

Saturday’s meeting will be the first of the season on the men’s side, with both schools looking to claim some bragging rights and an important win in the conference standings.

While NC State still has one game before the matchup with the Tar Heels, a road game at Notre Dame which could change the mood heading into Saturday, the Pack’s recent high-scoring win over UVA should give it confidence heading into the rivalry game.

This season, UNC has a nearly 30-point difference in points allowed in wins versus losses. If the Pack can maintain its hot-shooting from UVA, and carry it through the midweek matchup, things could get very interesting on Saturday.

UNC has its own midweek matchup to contend with before turning its attention to the Pack, a home game against Boston College on Wednesday.

Under first-year head coach Hubert Davis, the Tar Heels were projected to finish third in the ACC but currently reside in sixth with a 5-3 record in conference play. 

As has been the case throughout this season, NC State will need to find a way to stop the opposing bigs. Guys like Armando Bacot and Leaky Black can cause a Manny Bates-less NC State a lot of issues, especially if sophomore center Ebenezer Dowuona gets into foul trouble.

If the Pack can find a way to limit the bigs, or simply outpace them with excellent outside shooting from guys like freshman guard Terquavion Smith, then the Pack has a chance.

The two women’s teams have already clashed once this season, resulting in a resounding victory for NC State that saw the Wolfpack run UNC right out of its “small gym.” And UNC women’s head coach Courtney Banghart doubled down on that comment in her postgame presser after losing by 27 points.

Banghart’s comments, as well as the back-and-forth nature of the rivalry in recent years, certainly added fuel to the fire heading into Sunday’s showdown. But given the participants, the fire didn’t necessarily need any more stoking.

Since that game, the Wolfpack has risen to the No. 3 spot, going 5-0 with three wins against teams either ranked or receiving votes. On the flip side, UNC has dropped out of the top-25, going 2-2 since the thrashing it received in Reynolds.

Senior center Elissa Cunane dominated in that first matchup, recording a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double to lead the team in both categories. If the star center can do that again, it is likely to be a long Sunday for UNC.

Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby were the Tar Heels’ main contributors in that game, combining for 33 of UNC’s 45 points.

NC State enters the matchup on the back of a full week’s rest, while UNC still has another rivalry showdown with No. 21 Duke to contend with on Thursday.

Put simply, head coach Wes Moore’s team is firmly in the driver’s seat, but the Tar Heels have played spoiler to the Pack’s perfection in the past and will relish the opportunity to do it again.

While far from the best indicator of how these games will go, NC State has already had some very notable wins over UNC this season, including football’s wild finish, women’s soccer’s big upset and the aforementioned women’s basketball demolition.

No matter how you look at it, it’ll be a long weekend in the Triangle. 

The opening tip of the men’s game is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 inside the Smith Center and the women’s game is set to tip at 4 p.m. at Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 30. Both games will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

Sports Editor

I'm Nicholas Schnittker, Technician Vol. 102 Sports Editor. I'm in the class of 2022 and am currently majoring in communication and minoring in journalism.Twitter: @nick_schnittker