What: ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Tuesday, December 1st, 9:00 PM
TV: ESPN(Dick Vitale On The Call; Consider Yourself Warned)
Livestats: SCACC Hoops
Records: UNC 6-1; MSU 5-1
There will be a lot of talk about this being a revenge game for MSU. Certainly it will be a motivating factor for the Spartan plays seeing the unholy things UNC did to MSU on not one but two instances. However, nothing that happens on Tuesday night will change the fact UNC is the defending national champion. MSU winning this game will do nothing to shield them from the 2009 NCAA Championship banner which laughs at them from it's lofty perch next to the 2005 NCAA Championship banner which is also quite amused at MSU and the rest of the Big Ten for that matter. And yes, I imagine it sucks in a mighty way to walk into the Smith Center and see the banner the Heels won by decimating you in full view of the nation. The bottom line is UNC has a completely different team so while I understand beating UNC might be cathartic, it can only go so far. Of course that is not to say the MSU guys won't come in with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Delvon Roe, in particula,r probably want to show UNC they were wrong to spur---. What's that? Roe actually screwed UNC during recruiting? Then never mind, I hope Ed Davis or Deon Thompson shuts his reneging rear end down.
Now, the actual basketball. MSU has great guard play. That was the case last season as well, UNC was just better plus the Heels had an All-American at center. Larry Drew and Marcus Ginyard will have their hands full guarding the Spartan guards. Kalin Lucas is the preseason choice for Big Ten player of the year. Lucas leads MSU in scoring and is shooting 45% from three point range. He is easily the most dangerous player MSU has and given UNC's penchant for allowing opposing guards to go nuts, Lucas could end up having a big game. I would say Marcus Ginyard ends up guarding Lucas but that would leave Larry Drew attempting to check the 6-4 Durrell Summers. Lucas is 6-1 so Roy Williams might decided to take his chances with Drew on Lucas and see what can be done to shut down the rest of the Spartan team. The key matchup will likely be who picks up the 3rd guard MSU will put on the floor in Chris Allen. I am not sure Will Graves has a prayer against him. They could throw John Henson at him think the length/height mismatch alone might be enough. Needless to say that is a huge question. And no, I don't see Roy going Drew-Strickland-Ginyard though it might not be a bad idea in spurts. The only interior presence MSU has are 6-8 players Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe plus 6-6 Draymond Green. This is a clear mismatch on the inside which means a zone from the Spartans is a safe bet. Much like the title game last April, UNC needs to go to the post early and often. The concern is turnovers at the point or on the perimeter in general. MSU's guards are good defensively and if UNC cannot facilitate offense from the perimeter those tall players in the middle are not going to be much help.
For some reason I like UNC's chances in this one. I know guard play usually trumps interior play in college basketball but if UNC can get by with taking care of the basketball and exploiting the interior advantage, even to the point of forcing some quick fouls on Roe, Green or Morgan then the Heels have a chance to do well. Of the three tough games UNC has coming up, this is the best shot at winning one of them since it is at home and the Heels enjoy some matchup advantages. UK is far more balanced as is Texas who is also really deep.
One more quick item. Since UNC is taking on MSU, I am obligated to post this:
UNC 77 MSU 74