And it all comes down to this...
It should be an interesting evening this Monday night at Ford Field, as the Tar Heels come into Detroit to face the home (road) team Michigan State Spartans.
However, the question today is...how did we get here?
I'll be the first to admit that I've pretty much been dropping a deuce on the Big 10 (11) and to see Michigan State rises from the ashes is utterly amazing. Let's not forget that these two teams have played each other this year. Back in December '08, North Carolina basically went Kimbo Slice on the Spartans as they drubbed them by 35 points. Now, I didn't realize it at the time, but Spartans big man Goran Suton did not play, however, does it matter? You got beat by 35 points! Now your back ready for the rematch? Hmmmmmmm....
Me thinks that I have some doubt about this one.
I'm going to be totally honest, I've watched UNC for some stretches this season and I already knew they were really good. However, as of right now, they are phenomenal and lucky. The dearth of big men that UNC have is really amazing, and they've been able to wear down the one-man show of Blake Griffin and the lack of big men of Villanova. Much more than Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, and Tyler Zeller are all getting major minutes and all contributing. However, I would also point to the fact that UNC's been getting some major breaks from their opponents and their (lack of) shooting prowess.
UNC's last 2 opponents, Oklahoma and Villanova were both shooting the 3 at a great rate pre-UNC, yet they go and shoot a combined 7-46 (15%) from 3-point land while UNC puts up a nice 16-36 (44%) from beyond the arc. That is a huge difference, and I would also note that while some of the shots were contested, a lot of them were open looks and they were simply not knocking them down. If UNC's going to get a real competition, then their opponent will have to be able to knock down the 3. (Look at when Boston College and Wake Forest beat UNC)
So now waltzes in Michigan State. They do have a big man who can stroke it from 3 in Suton. They do have an array of shooters who have no fear (which I think nerves got to the OU and Nova shooters) from pulling from deep, and their hitting at a 38% clip so far in the tournament. Plus, they got a dude named (Korie) Lucious on the team, so how can they not have a chance?
Watch out for Raymar Morgan and who UNC decides to matchup against him, he's really a 3 but plays the 4 for State, and he gave Jeff Adrien problems on Saturday. I'd actually expect Hansbrough to guard him, and if that's the case we might see some foul trouble from #50.
Prediction? Well, if you have been paying attention I have supremely sucked at making any picks this year, mostly because I love pulling for the underdog. I'm going to pull for them again but I'm not picking them. This UNC team might be better than the '05 squad with Felton, McCants, Marvin Williams, and May and that's saying a lot. They have better all-around bigs and get it up and down the floor quickly. I don't like Roy, but that's because he's a really good coach. Go Sparty, but go home happy.
North Carolina 84, Michigan State 77
Who you got? (Anyone notice that 20 years ago Magic and Michigan State played Larry Bird at Indiana State? Don't Indiana State's uniforms share a resemblence with North Carolina's? They've got a big, kinda awkward white guy as their best playter too...am I reaching? LOL...