North Carolina is a great basketball team when it cares, and on Thursday night it cared. N.C. State came in with a pretty record amassed against mediocre teams and for the first time in a long time the game felt like a rivalry.
But when the Tar Heels commit, they play tough and entertaining basketball. Their interior defense is exceptional, they get good shots and they have an array of players capable of making them. The lopsided score -- North Carolina by 19 -- had less to do with N.C. State's struggles than with North Carolina's bursts of brilliance.
I'm pulling for N.C. State. Basketball is better when somebody -- N.C. State, Wake Forest, Stephen Curry -- rises to challenge superpowers North Carolina and Duke.
N.C. State isn't there, isn't close. But at least the Wolfpack is entitled to believe. And how long has it been since that happened?