Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
A huge crowd and ESPN audience is ready for tip-off at Ford Field as #1 North Carolina takes on #12 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
North Carolina’s (7-0) potent fast break attack has already scored 98 or more points four times despite playing without All-American and reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough in a total of four contests this season. He’s been battling a ankle and right shin injury but will likely go tonight. Marcus Ginyard has yet to play this season, yet the supremely talented Tar Heels still have five players averaging over 13ppg and are one of the top-3 most efficient offensive teams in the nation. Point guard Ty Lawson is averaging 16ppg while hitting over 52% of his shots and directing the offense with an astounding 5-1 assist to turnover ratio. His quickness has helped create 2.4 TO’s per game himself, and really ignites the Tar Heels offense. Deon Thompson has emerged provided strength at power forward, while 6-10 freshman forward Ed Davis leads NC in rebounding with 9 per contest in just 23 minutes per game. Wayne Ellington is a smooth shooter and top 3-point threat while also providing some defensive strength and ball pressure in the absence of Ginyard.
Michigan State (4-1) will try to slow North Carolina’s attack, but will be shorthanded in the front court. The Big Ten’s top returning rebounder, senior Goran Suton sat out the Old Spice Classic tournament with a knee injury and is not ready to return. The Spartans still have a number of players that have banged the boards and provided rebounding strength, and Michigan State bounced back from a loss to Maryland with a pair of tournament wins, including over up-tempo Oklahoma State. Forward Raymar Morgan has more rebounding help this year and he’s hitting 70% of his shots as he takes the lead role for Michigan State. He must stay on the floor and out of foul trouble to keep the Spartans in this game, and Michigan State will need big contributions inside from senior Marquise Gray and freshman Delvon Roe. Point guard Kalin Lucas will get to show his quickness against Ty Lawson, and Lucas also averages over 6 assists per game with a 5-1 assist to turnover ratio. I believe MSU coach Tom Izzo will try to slow the pace of this contest, as the Spartans will have little chance to win and up and down game and that style and pace could put his key players at risk for more fouls.
North Carolina has won their games by an average of nearly 30ppg. Michigan State will be able to hang for awhile, and the Ford Field fans should keep the Spartans pushing hard. But North Carolina’s talent and strength and ability to extend will ultimately be too much for MSU, and the Tar Heels will emerge with a victory at Ford Field – a place where we’ll likely see them again for this season’s Final Four.
Winner: North Carolina Margin: 8-12 points
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.