College / Jul 28, 2010 / 2:49 pm

North Carolina vs. NC State: Tobacco Road’s Hottest Rivalry

No college basketball rivalry can touch Duke vs. North Carolina, but with the defending national champion Blue Devils a notch above the ACC right now, there is a less talked-about Tobacco Road rivalry that should be wildly entertaining, fiercely competitive, and could grow to approach that Duke/UNC bitterness in due time:

That would be North Carolina vs. NC State.

After writing my college basketball preview last week, most of the feedback was about ranking NC State at the 10th spot and leaving the Tar Heels out of the Top-10. Don’t worry, I wasn’t being a hater. Had we done a full Top-25, I would have had UNC right behind NC State. I’ve always been a huge UNC fan and think they’re the best college basketball program ever. But even I have to admit, the Wolfpack are looking tough this year. You can easily flip-flop them in the preseason rankings.

UNC and NC State are evenly matched, as both are coming off seasons where they missed the NCAA Tournament — UNC finished second in the NIT, while NC State was knocked out in the second round — and are in a rebuilding mode with stellar recruiting classes on the way. How do these two young and talented squads matchup? Let’s put them head-to-head:

John Henson (UNC) vs. Tracy Smith (NC State) — At first glance, you have to give this one to UNC, but don’t sleep on Tracy Smith of the Wolfpack. Smith averaged almost 17 and 7 as a junior last season, but let’s be honest, he’s no J.J. Hickson. He had experience and muscle on the skinny sophomore Henson, but I think even Wolfpack fans would agree UNC takes this one.
EDGE – Tar Heels

Tyler Zeller (UNC) vs. C.J. Leslie (NC State) — Two former high school All-Americans. Tar Heel fans will definitely have something to say about this, but I honestly think C.J. Leslie is a 2011 Lottery pick lock. Now will he dominate Zeller? No, but he could run circles around him and jump over him. I’ll have to go with NC State on this one.
EDGE – Wolfpack

Harrison Barnes (UNC) vs. Lorenzo Brown (NC State) — Harrison Barnes is The Man, the best incoming freshman in the country and a surefire Top-5 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Brown is part of NC State’s highly-ranked recruiting class, but doesn’t have near the exposure (or the talent) of Barnes.
EDGE – Tar Heels

Will Graves (UNC) vs. Javier Gonzalez (NC State) — Calm down. Why do I have Graves starting over 2010 high school All-American Reggie Bullock? While I agree that Reggie is better, remember how Roy Williams started senior Jawad Williams over freshman star Marvin Williams on the 2005 national championship team? I think this is a similar situation, as Graves was at times UNC’s best offensive player last season and he’s got the ACC experience. Gonzalez averaged 9.5 points for NC State last season, but he shined in his team’s biggest games.
EDGE – Push

Larry Drew III (UNC) vs. Ryan Harrow (NC State) — Although Drew will be better this year, I still am not convinced that he’s the right type of player to lead UNC to the national championship; I don’t even think Drew is better than incoming freshman Kendall Marshall. Ryan Harrow will have a chip on his shoulder all year for getting an All-American snub and with everyone in the ACC talking about Duke freshman PG Kyrie Irving.
EDGE – Wolfpack

Reggie Bullock, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald (UNC) vs. Scott Wood, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams (NC State) — They may not have much depth down low after the Wear twins decided to transfer, but UNC still has one of the deepest benches in the ACC. The four listed above could start for a lot of teams around the country.
EDGE – Tar Heels

Roy Williams (UNC) vs. Sidney Lowe (NC State) — While I love Sidney Lowe (pause), you just cannot give him the nod over Roy. If Lowe hadn’t landed Leslie in recruiting, this might have been his last year in Raleigh.
EDGE – Tar Heels

Overall: North Carolina wins, 4-2-1

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    i’m pretty sure nc state isnt on tobacco road

  • Tre

    Lorenzo Brown plays the 3? He’s only 6’4.

  • drizzlerulz

    i’m pretty sure NCSU IS tobacco rd

  • 45%

    Lol at you matching zeller up with Leslie.


  • http://www.wix.com/reyrey33/REYZ-WORLD rey jefferson

    @Tre its called a 3-guard line-up…UNC’s size will def give them some problems

  • 45%

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to put Henson on Leslie

  • PN

    FYI, there is no actual “tobacco road.” It’s just a name for the region, and its primarily used to describe the basketball rivalries between Duke, State, and UNC (and sort of WF).

  • drizzlerulz

    WF counts, it used to be right outside Raleigh (in Wake Forest). Tobacco used to be the primary crop of eastern NC, and NCSU was the land grant Ag school of the area. it might still be, but probably not.

  • http://www.wix.com/reyrey33/REYZ-WORLD rey jefferson

    @45% agreed but for a position by position outlook I kept zeller on CJ but yea no way thats roy doesn’t have zeller n henson switch, plus i dont see ncsu starting cj leslie at the 5….feel me (PAUSE) lol?

  • jay

    not to be rude but i am a college hoops fan but lets be real..nc state has not been relevant in years. i know sydney lowe but not much on state players…..unc and duke is it.,…hey heels cant win 30+ games every year..they should but hey everyone can have a down year..duke vs unc should be legit!

  • Undauntedheel

    Couple issues:

    1 – Barnes is not going to be on brown he is goign to be matched up with Leslie.
    2- Henson will be on the 4 while Zeller is with Smith.
    3 – I hope your wrong about Graves.

  • ay yo.

    UNC vs. NCSU has always been a strong rivalry (a little better & competitive in football). But, things are looking to change with the incoming class NC State has brought in (which IMO, should change ncsu’s basketball future)

    BTW, there’s no way Henson can hold T. Smith in the paint. Henson isn’t strong enough. But, Henson does have superior length.

  • Albert Spencil

    July 28th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    drizzlerulz says:

    i’m pretty sure NCSU IS tobacco rd


    July 28th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    KWAME says:

    i’m pretty sure nc state isnt on tobacco road
    They’re both on Tobacco Road. UNC is smoking. State is dipping.

  • lifep

    both teams will play hard

  • Yooo

    Wake Forest is not even remotely close to Raleigh. Its at least 45min to an hour away… You might as well include my alma mater A&T then. Thats closer than Wake

  • PN

    @ Yoo

    If A&T or Shaw or Central played UNC, State and Duke, that would be a tobacco road rivalry as well.

    Winston and Durham were the two largest tobacco manufacturing towns in the country when tobacco was king. Therefore, the “road” between the triangle and W-S could be called tobacco road

    The term is all about basketball anyway, so why not throw in Wake; I grew up in Raleigh, went to school in CH and live in durham and I’ve never heard the area described as tobacco road outside of sports.

  • http://none tarheel

    What a dumb motherfucker. Zeller plays CENTER, NOT the 4spot!!! State, with all their freshman will be lucky just to make the tournament next year.

  • http://riddickandreynolds.wordpress.com James C.

    @drizzle: State is and will always be NC’s premier land grant institution. Ag is certainly a part of it, but we’re a world-class engineering and research institution as well. We produce a lot of the biomedical engineers and scientists that populate the pharmaceutical firms in the Triangle.

    @KWAME: Do your research–were it not for Everette Case and N.C. State, there wouldn’t BE a Tobacco Road. Carolina and Duke would still be football schools like they were back in the 50’s had Case not brought big-time basketball south from Indiana. There’s a reason the winner of the ACC Tournament is awarded the Everette Case trophy.

    And yes, Wake is most DEFINITELY a part of Tobacco Rd. The school moved from the town of Wake Forest, just north of Raleigh, in 1956 to Winston-Salem. Prior to the move, you had all four of The Big Four located within 30 minutes of one another.

    @rey I’m curious as others are to why you matched up State and Carolina the way you did. If Carolina was fielding size, why would State not counter with a lineup of Smith-Howell(an overlooked talent)-Leslie-Wood-Brown? Wood has the length to guard at the two and is a fantastic, tall shooter who can bomb away off of Brown’s dribble penetration. If we need to go small, we can use your lineup or go Smith-Leslie-Wood-Brown-Harrow. I doubt we’ll see Lorenzo play any at the three with the depth we have there between Wood, Williams and possibly Leslie if we went big.

  • drizzlerulz

    WF the town (where the school used to be) is just north of Raleigh. the school moved to Winston Salem in 1956

  • Dre

    This is ridiculous every preseason poll will have UNC ranked over State. Their recruiting class was tops, plus the swept state last year. What is this dude smoking, I understand he loves the Heels but trust this year UNC won’t be too far off of Duke trust that. All they were missing was outside scorers and if Kendall and Larry play just decent at the PG UNC will be hurting cats. The outside game was the key… they have that now. Lets think people. Harrison Barnes is the truth and he will carry the scoring load.

  • TobaccoRoadHistorian

    Tobacco Road = I-40
    All 4 schools, NCSU, UNC-CH, Duke, and Wake Forest are within 1 mile of the highway.

    That being said, Wake Forest relocated to Winston from the town of Wake Forest which is in the Triangle. Going back a few decades you would find that all four campuses were less than 30 minutes apart.

  • Deisel

    1) Brown will be either 2 guard or the point gaurd, but def. not the three.

    2) There will not be a lineup of harrow, brown, and gonzaeles. take it to the bank.

    3) CJ Leslie will play the three, and gives Harrison Barnes fits with his length.

    4) Deshawn Painter or Jordan Vandenberg will play the 5. Vandenberg bothers Henson on defense. Henson is used to being the tallest and longest player on the court, until Vandenberg is there.

    5. A backup line-up of
    Javi Gonzales
    CJ Williams
    Scott Wood
    Richard Howell
    is about as good as a backup lineup as you’ll see.

    6) State’s back court will be above and beyone UNC’s. Just watch.

    7) The only advantage UNC has is Harrison Barnes and with CJ guarding him, I really don’t see that as much of an advantage. I think UNC still struggles this year, as their PG spot will still suck. Drew IS better than Kendall Marshall. He was over-hyped because he was a hole committ. The very biased scout.com guys could only explain his ranking by saying that he was ranked that high because of the people he would be playing with!! Really?!? I mean how deep is it getting over there, in BS. Jesus, why don’t that just make Inside Carolina their main site, and do away with scout.com.

    8) Teams will split regular season. if they meet in the post-season, edge goes to the wolfpack.


    Minor detail: you had most of the NCSU team playing out of position to push the point on the match up.

    Center Painter/Vandenberg/Smith/Howell
    PF Smith/Howell/CJL
    SF CJL/Wood/Brown/CJW
    SG Brown/Wood/JG/CJW
    PG Harrow/Brown/JG

  • CS

    Kendall Marshall does NOT have a strong outside game. All he can do is pass. This rivalry will be very very very competitive. UNC swept State last year. Duke beat UNC twice, once by 30 last year. State beat Duke by 14 last year. You can’t compare last year’s games to come to a conclusion for this years. UNC class ranked 4th, State ranked 5th so you might as well call that even. Also, the players State have returning this year did more than the UNC guys did. Nobody knows yet but if you think UNC will just roll over State next year your dumb. The pack will win atleast 1 of the games with the heels.

  • Dre

    I have coached Kendall and his outside game is better then Larry Drews his offense game is better then what people believe. He reminds me of Ed Cota without the NY flash. You say all he can do is pass, what u have to realize is that to be a great passer you have to have some scoring ability of everyone would just play you for the pass. He ain’t rated as high as he is for nothing. UNC class is ranked 2nd in the country a lot of polls and 4th in others. Harrison Barnes is in a class all by himself. UNC have outside shooters now, they can play inside last year but didn’t have enough outside shooters. This year they have plenty it will even make whoever starts at the PG’s job soooo much easier. That was the biggest problem with the team last year. It should not be a problem this year. State is still State… State does not match up well with them… I’m sorry it’s about match ups and UNC just added to a team that they already had a match up edge against. Sidney Lowe runs a slow down game… with Harrow and Leslie he is going to have to pick it up for them to be as effective… period… point… blank. All though they are ok, with the half court game they thrive in the open court.


  • Dre

    Diesel, that was the dumbest comments up here CS gave a better reason for a split. If you couldn’t split with UNC last year you can’t split with him this year. As far as Leslie, he is apoor defender on the ball, he is great off the ball. Harrison has either owne him everytime they have played against each other or if they were picked to be on the same team Harrison always started ahead of him. He is a better player, he isn’t going to all of a sudden figure out how to check him. CJ lacks a high basketball IQ he is all athletic ability. His HS coach as said that. Harrison is cerebral, and he has complete game, inside, outside, defender, rebounder. You might as well take that out of your mind. Kendall plays in the WCAC for those who are too stupid to know this is the strongest high school conference in the country. He did his thing all the time, even when the talent he had wasn’t up to par with his ability. He has a good jumper, but it still needs work he shot a decent percentage, if you put him with other player who know how to play and really move without the ball he will make you look silly. He is not a scrub stupid people too many top schools offered him a scholly and they know more about basketball then you do.

  • Dre

    I have been praying for state to get better cause I feel sorry for the fans ( a little they r usually rabid @$$holes ) but it’s not a rivalry until they come close to winning a title it’s been like 27 years or so.

  • CS

    Dre, I didn’t mean I think Marshall is a bad player b/c he’s not. He’s just overrated in my eyes (just my opinion). If he wasn’t a UNC recruit he wouldn’t be ranked as high as he is. Barnes is more solid all around than CJ. However, in the Pro-Am CJ gave Barnes a fit on defense while he couldn’t stop CJ’s offense. I was there and saw it first hand . Harrison Barnes has NEVER dominated CJ Leslie in a head to head match up so I don’t know where you get that from. You are right about State not matching up well with UNC. It’s just b/c of the length UNC has though. This year the talent level on each team will be much closer than last year. Mark my words, NC STATE WILL FINSIH IN THE TOP 4 IN THE ACC NEXT YEAR!!! UNC will too.

  • CS

    Oh and Dre if you think NC STATE fans are bigger @$$holes than UNC fans your crazy. LOL of course i’m a little biased.

  • CS

    You have to give NC STATE fans credit. We are some of the most passionate fans in the country. Our team hasn’t been good in too many seasons the last 20-30 yrs but we continue to be ranked very high in attendance. Shouldn’t every fan be rabid about the team they pull for? No matter how bad they do I will ALWAYS support the PACK!!

  • CS

    It’s still a rivalry b/c of history. It will always be a rivalry. The only way Duke, NC State, and UNC games won’t be a rivalry is when 1 team wins literally everytime which is not the case.

  • Dre

    CS, State fans are different kinds of @$$holes then UNC @$$holes. I have been around some pompous UNC people that irk my nerves. State @$$holes are more vocal and vicious… lets not forget F-bomb alley at Carter Finley. They both have @$$holes… they are just different kinds.

    I saw it at the practice at the Mickey D’s game and I was told by all of the guys that he killed him in practice I think it was the Jordan classic. I was at the Pro-Am as well. CJ is good but he can’t handle Harrison period.

    Much love CS, I agree with you about the rivalry. I remember when it was more about UNC and State then UNC and Duke.

    I have coached Kendall, I am from Raleigh and I am one of the coaches at O’Connell. I have seen what Kendall can do. However, O’Connell has been down a little bit talent wise so he carried a big load for the team. His rankings didn’t come from going to UNC cause there are plenty of UNC recruits that were not highly rated. Drew for one, QT, it doesn’t mean u will be rated high. Kendall gets his shine for 2 reason, the conference he plays in has Gonzaga, Dematha, and McNamara and they play Montrose Christian. There are other schools like Oak Hill and Mater Dei but they are all in weaker conferences. They have strong teams they play against every year and he still put up good numbers. So someone could drop 30 against weaker comp and it means less. Then it is what he does in camps, when he is other talented players they can handle his passes and have high IQ he really shines. That is why other schools wanted him. You got to understand, what does it benefit Georgetown, Nova, and all those other schools to go after him if he is overrated and not good?

  • Dre

    To be honest CS, I am really glad State is on the way back. It’s great for the ACC.

  • CS

    Dre, first I want to say it’s great talking like this with someone that isn’t a complete child. Didn’t Kendall only average like 14 pts & 7 asst a game his senior year? That’s really good for a top league but my thing is he won’t do better than that in the ACC. My argument about the Barnes Cj matchup was b/c you said Barnes dominated him and that just wasn’t the case in the 2 games I saw. Harrison had just as much trouble gaurding CJ in the pro am as CJ had gaurding Harrison. You can’t deny that. I do think Harrison is a better player but he isn’t that far ahead of CJ (especially talent wise). Last thing I want to say is I don’t hate UNC, DUKE, or WAKE. They all represent my area and i’m proud of that. I think we can all agree that the Triangle is where major college hoops is at…..right? LOL much respect to you opinions. It’s obvious you know what your talking about, as do I. ;)

  • CS

    Dre, would you go as far as to say that Kendall deserved the McD’s spot more than Ryan Harrow? Ryan was in a good league too and his stats were MUCH better. What you think?

  • Slappy McCheese


    You are either crazy or stupid. Carolina State is one of the most one sided rivalries in basketball right now.

    Get a grip.

  • ACCBballFan

    NC State lineup is far from pre-determined but will not be what you listed.

    Center might be Tracy Smith who is better than Zeller or Henson. If not then Vandenberg or Painter with Tracy Smith at PF.

    Otherwise Howell for beef or CJ Leslie for speed at PF.

    C J Leslie or Scotty Wood for shooting and height at WF, not Lorenzo Brown.

    The combo slots will be two of Lorenzo Brown, Ryan Harrow or Javi Gonzalez.

    While I agree Grves may start over Bullock, if he does Graves would be the WF and Barnes the SG for defensive purposes at least.

    The other reason to do this is to manufacture some offense as Harrison Barnes likes to leak out for fast break dunks.

    Both NC State and UNC along with Duke have the deepest bench in ACC this year.

    Should be a fun season as each plays the other two home and home this year.

  • david

    Obviously you don’t know much about Tobacco Road, because that lineup is no where near what NC state is gonna be next year.

    there is no way in hell we’d run a 3 guard set.

    pf-t smith
    c-painter/vandy (who ever wins the battle)

  • CS

    The fact that it’s one sided doesn’t mean it’s not a rivalry. UNC is up over 30 games on Duke. Kansas is up over 70 games on Missouri. Kentucky has twice as many wins as Louisville. Purdue has 40 more wins than Indiana. The point we were talking about is if it was a rivalry or not. Your point makes no sense in this argument. You are one of the @$$hole Unc fans Dre and I were talking about. Pompous douchebag. The rivalry is 100 yrs old. That alone makes it a big rivalry. I have plenty of UNC friends and next to Duke they want to beat state the most.

  • Dre

    CS, I would have given MCD’s the spot to Harrow.

  • CS

    That last message was to you Slappy Mcdouche.

  • CS

    Me too Dre, I think a lot of my opinions on Marshall are b/c i’m bitter about him getting the spot over Harrow. It’s going to be a very interesting next few years in the ACC if all the 2010 recruits stay around. If they all stay I have no doubt that UNC, DUKE, and STATE will be the top dogs in the future. That’s how most real UNC and DUKE fans want it to be. They all like for State to be really good.

  • CS

    David, I agree with everything you said except Harrow won’t start to begin the year in my opinion. By ACC play he’ll be the starter though. The top 10 players in the rotation will all get plenty of minutes.

  • CS

    ACCBballFan, CJ Williams will rotate in at the 2g spot as well. Also, Sidney Lowe has already stated that he intends on playing Smith mostly at the 4. Only way that doesn’t happen is if Vandy or Painter are dominated. If that happens Smith will go back to the 5 spot.

  • CS

    Slappy if you were talking to the writer, your the dumb one b/c he’s saying it’s the hottest rivalry because of how Duke dominated them last year and b/c of the recruits UNC and NC STATE have coming in.

  • Dre

    It’s great talking to you CS. I think CJ has a slight edge athletically but Harriaon’s game is more refined. Harrison although is very athletic uses his skills like a veteran. Well in the Pro-Am it was much more even.

    Yeah, I think Kendall will do better than that only because he will be surrounded talent. Do I think he can compliment a good team… heck yes. In the camps he looked really good. He cannot carry a team night in and night out. He avg 15pts 4 rebs and 7 ast. He shot 37% from 3-pt line and he shot 44% from the field. That is not bad but when he is with other talent he looks like a star. I have seen his videos from the camps. It’s like someone dropping 30 in a div III and someone dropping 16 in the ACC. The NBA scouts are going to look at the ACC guy more. I think Harrow is a great player that hasn’t gotten his just rewards. They all will have to show what they can do in the ACC.

  • Dre

    I have wanted State to be good for years… I live in the DC area now but my parents live in Raleigh and they are State fans… it’s much more fun when State is a top dog not only in the ACC but in the country.

    Oh btw not saying that Harrow’s conference D III just that the WCAC has a very good reputation as a high school power conference.

  • Kurt

    UNC will have no low post depth. The talent on UNCs bench will be prettygood, but it’s all wings. He didn’t even list the Knox kid who will have to play for UNC in the post. He’s the only other post player on the roster besides Henson and Zeller. Barnes has to run the show and play up to the hype for UNC to be really good. Even if he does play well, UNC isn’t on Dukes level. That’s mainly because the point guard play will still not be there. Larry Drew is an average ACC point guard at best. Kendall Marshall will take time to get used to the speed of the college game. Without a good PG you can’t go but so far. Kevin Durant only took Texas to the 2nd Round of the NCAA tournament. That team also had several other future NBA players on that roster. Don’t expect a glory season right away Tarheel fans. Barnes is a great player, but you don’t have a seasoned team or a good PG surrounding him.