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A Spartan Preview

Ah, UNC-Michigan State. What's sure to be an epic matchup between two great teams that... wait, that was 2005. (Ah, memories) This is 2007.

The 2005 matchup did a lot to bury my irrational fear of the Spartans, a reflexive reaction borne of two bad ACC-Big Ten Challenges and the 2000 NCAA tournament. What little remained died after Michigan State exited the tournament in the first round last year (I mean really, who can you fear a team that lost to George Mas... never mind).

This is a different Michigan State team. A slow Michigan State team. The parallels to certain group in Durham are unavoidable. A coach with a history of Final Fours and offensively efficient teams abruptly slows the pace down and relies solely on a strong defense. Essentially, this team is Duke with a perimeter shooter and slightly more depth.

The Heels can defend against perimeter shooters - it's the drive and shoot folks that slip through the defensive cracks. And naturally, Hansbrough and Wright are a brutal defensive twosome for opposing big men to go through. My concern is on the offensive end. The Spartans are a very strong defensive team inside, and better than average on the defensive boards and compiling an impressive number of blocks in the paint. Wright's wingspan may negate some of that, as does Idonk Ibok's injury. And Hansbrough's improved play on Thursday in the mask is an encouraging sign. But the Heels don't provide the outside shooting relief neccessay to keep the Spartans from collapsing on the interior, it could be a long day for North Carolina. UNC should get the win, but how they do it will go a long way in lessening my concerns over the team's tournament hopes.