Number one seed North Carolina and Michigan State will tip off 7 PM Friday night from an air craft carrier in the port of San Diego. It is the first NCAA D1 game on top of an aircraft carrier.
Betting Line From Bodog: UNC -9.5
What implications will that have? Well, for starters there will be elements most players are used to adjusting for — light in the eyes, wind in the air, vacous surroundings instead of walls and rooves.
But beyond that, there is a very important game for the Tar Heels to make a statement about what kind of team they are. With so many being quick to label them the number one team in the nation, this will serve as a statement game as to dicate whether they actually are or not. Michigan State is a solid enough opponent that we will get to find that out tonight.
North Carolina is not a team without flaws, though. They still have a shaky backcourt situation, and while Dexter Strickland may just be the ultimate answer, he made only eight threes last season…while posting only 7.5 points per game in starter’s minutes. They could use Reggie Bullock there, or even PJ Hairston, a freshman, is an option.
The main strength of the Tar Heels will be in the frontcourt of course, and the number one player in the nation in the eyes of many (in Harrison Barnes) will have to do his job. In addition to that, Zeller must stay aggressive and play like the big body he is.
The problem for Michigan State will be scoring. UNC is going to put up points and the Spartans have to find a way of keeping pace with them. It’s early on and chemistry will be an issue for both squads, but it’s hard to imagine Michigan State being able to provide enough scoring to save themselves in this matchup.
One of the most entertaining sub-plots will be to chart the play at point guard. UNC’s Kendall Marshall has the keys to the machine for the Tar Heels, while Michigan State will turn to Keith Appling. Appling played in the US under-19 championships and impressed many, but he needs to realize the role of a point guard and adhere to it, deferring to his teammates often, despite his skill set individually.
What it is going to boil down to is that Michigan State’s strengths will be mitigated by the Tarheels. MSU’s best player Draymond Green will be pestered by John Henson all night, and at 6’10” Henson has the length to frustrate Green.
Tonight’s game should be interesting to see to get some kind of gauge on just how good UNC is. The aircraft carrier will add a whole new “element of danger,” of sorts, but the real story will be on the court and whether Michigan State can manage to cover a 9.5 point spread that at this point actually looks conservative.