UNC opponent preview: NC State

As we count down to the beginning of basketball practice and the season, let’s take a look at an opponent on North Carolina’s schedule ....

Opponent: NC State

Date(s): January 26 (in Raleigh, N.C.), Feb. 23 (in Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Series results: UNC leads 147-75 (the Tar Heels won all three meetings last season, including a two-point victory in the ACC tournament)

NC State last season: 24-13, 9-7 in the ACC. Lost to Kansas in the NCAA regional semifinals.

Foe to know: C.J. Leslie, 6-foot-9 forward, junior

The Wolfpack returns four starters from the 2011-12 squad that made it to the NCAA Sweet 16, but it was Leslie’s decision to not turn pro early that makes this squad an ACC (and preseason top 10) favorite.

Leslie just got better and better as last season progressed, averaging 17.1 points over his team’s final 16 games and pushing the Pack to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. In the end, he led his squad in points (14.7 per game) and was second in rebounding (7.3). And if he can keep building like he did last season, NC State -- which adds a heralded freshman class to its nucleus of Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell -- should keep winning.

Tidbits: The Tar Heels have won 13 in a row against their in state-rivals; the last time NC State won a game in the series was Feb., 2007. … NC State hasn’t won the regular-season ACC title since 1988-89, but it should be one of the preseason favorites when the media votes next week.

Previous schedule previews:

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.