Circle these dates on the calendar: Jan. 26 and Feb. 23.
If in-state rivals, North Carolina and North Carolina State needed any more motivation going into these two clashes this season, UNC senior guard Dexter Strickland provided it. On Friday, following practice, Strickland told Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports that he didn’t think too highly of the Wolfpack:
“They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year. They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can’t put them in the mix.”
The only problem with Strickland’s comments – who is still coming back from a torn ACL – is that N.C. State is already in the mix. On Monday, the ACC coaches picked Mark Gottfired and N.C. State as the preseason favorites. Duke was picked to finished second, followed by UNC.
However, Strickland does have a point here. This is the same N.C. State team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen, but only finished 9-7 in the ACC this season.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is perfect against Wolfpack in his career at Chapel Hill, but this season Strickland lacks the resources he has had in the past. North Carolina has to make up for the production of Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes.
Roy Williams is going to need to rely on the potential that James Michael McAdoo showed a season ago, as well as depending on freshman Marcus Paige to run the show offensively.
Strickland also told Goodman that he will still be a defensive stopper on the perimeter, but he thinks he will look to score more this season:
“I feel like my role this year is going to be different. I want to get back to having the mentality I had back in high school, getting the the basket and creating for others. I’m still going to lock down on the defensive end, but I’ve been looked at as just a defender. They’re going to see a different player, someone who will attack the rim and score more.”
For the first time in decades, rivals North Carolina, Duke, and N.C. State are all expected to be contenders at the same time and Strickland has only added fuel to the fire.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne