Preview: Michigan State

UNC has been in this scenario once already this season. The Heels are coming off a loss to a mid-major program and heading into a matchup against a top-ranked team as heavy underdogs. Last time around, they stunned No. 3 Lousiville to win the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. With all the inconsistency infecting the team this year, it only makes sense that the Heels will come away from the Breslin Center with a win, right?

Well, the fact that it’s in East Lansing is probably the biggest difference from the neutral-site game vs. U of L, so perhaps it’s not as close as I said above. But the logic has to be sort of there for the Heels to pull out a W, right? Right?

  • For what it’s worth, UNC has 12 victories against No. 1-ranked teams all-time, the most of any school. NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State
  • MSU’s leading scorer is All-America candidate shooting guard Gary Harris(right). The sophomore averages 17.7 ppg, but has been hobbled of late with an ankle injury. He sat out the Spartans’ last game, but could be part of the marquee match-up of the night if he D’s up Marcus Paige. 
  • After the Heels got pounded on the boards vs. UAB, it’s not a good sign that MSU has a +5 advantage in that department this season. Joel James, James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks will be taking on Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson in the paint, and Harris rebounds well for a guard. This could very well be the deciding factor in the game. Oh, and free throws and three-point shooting. 
  • Keith Appling will be a tough assignment for Nate Britt. He’s been lighting it up from three to the tune of 52 percent shooting. Maybe UNC will be forced to play a bigger body on Appling like J.P. Tokoto. Payne is actually the Spartans next-best threat from deep as Harris only hits about 26 percent of the time, so we could also see more of that 3-2 zone in an attempt to take away MSU’s advantage inside. 

The bottom line is that the matchup and venue heavily favor the Spartans. No team won on the road Tuesday night, and we don’t expect that trend to be bucked by this game. Of course, many sportswriters (and even bloggers like us) were eating our words after the upset of Louisville, so anything is possible. We just wouldn’t put much money on it.

Prediction: MSU 86, UNC 70