North Carolina and N.C. State will play an ACC basketball game tonight at the RBC Center. That much is guaranteed.
But which version of the Tar Heels or Wolfpack will show up is anyone's guess.
For two teams pegged in the preseason at the opposite ends of the ACC men's standings, the neighbors enter tonight's 9 p.m. game with similar experiences.
UNC (12-7 overall, 1-3 in the ACC), which dropped out of the top 25 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, has shown flashes of competency, but its young team has lacked consistency.
N.C. State (13-7, 2-4) has learned through an uneven ACC start that the only thing to expect is the unexpected.
The byproduct of youth and inexperience is inconsistency.
North Carolina is good enough to beat then-No. 6 Michigan State but lost to the College of Charleston. N.C. State's good enough to beat then-No. 7 Duke but lost the next game to Maryland by 24 points.
To a certain extent, each coach expected the ups-and-downs before the season started. Where each team goes from here depends on how quickly each can learn from its mistakes.
"You know you're going to have some setbacks, absolutely," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said Monday. "We hope that we learn from those setbacks."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams expected his young team, with five freshmen and only one returning starter from last year's national-title team, to have consistency issues but he wasn't plan ning on a 1-3 ACC start.
"Did I think we would have ups and downs? Yes," Williams said Monday. "Did I think we would have them in the manner that we're having? No."
The Heels are going through the post-national title growing pains the 2005-06 team avoided. They're winless in true road games (0-3), including a 19-point loss at Clemson, and they've lost two straight ACC games at home.
The younger talent hasn't been as good as advertised and it hasn't meshed with the older talent. Inconsistency and injuries, like the ankle sprain that could keep forward Ed Davis out tonight for a second straight game, have the Heels stuck in a three-game losing streak for the first time under Williams.
"Right now we're struggling, there's no question about that," Williams said.
State can match Carolina's highs and lows.
Since the calendar turned to January, the Pack has alternated wins and losses, with Saturday's 88-64 nadir at Maryland dropping them to 3-4 in the month.
For State, it's not as much youth, although it starts freshman guard Scott Wood and leans on freshman forward Richard Howell for valuable minutes, but experience. Of State's veteran core, only junior guard Javi Gonzalez has started more than 15 games in a season.
Even thought they're seniors, Dennis Horner and Farnold Degand haven't been through an ACC grind at the minutes they're playing.
"You have to go through it," Lowe said. "Players get better when they are able to go through the ups and downs and learn from their mistakes."
In this series, there haven't been many downs for UNC lately. Williams likes to joke that he would "rather beat State than eat." He hasn't missed many meals with a 12-1 record against the Pack since returning to UNC in 2003-04.
Lowe beat Williams in his first game, in 2006-07, and has lost six straight since.
The Pack coach sees Carolina and he still sees the team picked by the media to win the regular season and that started No. 6 in the country.
"They're young, but they've got talent," Lowe said. "I'm just hoping that it all doesn't click against us. That's the scary part about it. When you know it's there, it can happen at any time."