Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2012

  1. Usually the NCAA announcements of future NCAA Tournament sites do not generate much fanfare, but yesterday’s announcement of the 2014 and 2015 sites appears to be an exception. The big direct news is, of course, that the NCAA Tournament will be coming back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1961. The big indirect news is that the NCAA did not award New Jersey a single game, which appears to be a continuation of their opposition against the legalization of sports betting within the state. Outside of that the only particularly noteworthy selection is the Carrier Dome for 2015 East Regional because it would eliminate the Orange from the East Region that year.
  2. Despite cancellations of two of the three events this weekend (and the third event being played only after a delay) the powers that be have decided to bring back the Carrier Classic in 2013. Citing an engineering solution that will fix the condensation/dew problem (we are imaging something like those anti-condensation water bottles) the organizers plan to keep the event in Charleston, South Carolina, on the USS Yorktown. As we said yesterday in this space if the promoters want to recognize military members there are ways other than playing on a naval ship. Hopefully the organizers will realize that at some point soon.
  3. With all the data of one game played for most teams the new polls came out and frankly we don’t particularly care, but what we do care about is the return of Poll Attacks from Gary Parrish, who took the opportunity to pan the rankings submitted by Ron Morris, a journalist from Columbia, South Carolina (his full rankings here). We can’t get too worked up by any rankings this early in the season and Morris is probably more interested in college football right now, but when you leave Syracuse out of your top 25 we have to question whether you are paying attention at all. Our best guess is that he (or his intern) was putting together his Top 25 and simply forgot to include the Orange, but there are nine other teams where he either has them the highest or lowest in the AP poll so either he has very different views on how the season has played out so far or he just has not been paying any attention.
  4. We usually do not notice NBA Draft boards this early in the season, but the reaction of several draft analysts to the performance of Alex Len caught our eye. We are not sure how to go back and track previous mock drafts on some sites, but from what we remember Len was a borderline lottery pick coming into the season, which is where DraftExpress had him on their 2013 mock draft from November 1. Now at least two sites – ESPN’s Top 100 (#5) and NBADraft.net (#7) – have placed him up much higher with updates after Len’s opener against Kentucky. We understand Len’s potential — athletic 7-footers are hard to find — we found a few of the comments in Chad Ford’s update amusing (sorry, ESPN Insider so if you don’t have access you will just have to trust us) where he said “Len made himself a lot of money on Friday” while commenting on his inconsistency. He also mentioned in his last update one month ago that if Len improved this season he “has a decent chance of cracking the lottery”. Perhaps Ford and the other NBA Draft analysts are right, but it seems like we would want to see a lot more consistency out of Len before saying he has essentially doubled the value of his rookie contract after one admittedly excellent game.
  5. By the time you are reading this we are already several hours into ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. You have probably seen several guides telling you how to survive 24 hours of basketball mostly from people who might only be awake that long once a year at most. We are going to give you a little professional advice coming from a place where we are awake working for well over 24 hours on a not infrequent basis: pace yourself (don’t get too worked up over early games), eat small meals (people who stay awake for long periods routinely can get away with eating big meals, but most people will pass out soon after), don’t rely on caffeine (if you rely on it routinely to get through the day then you might need it, but most people should save it for emergencies), and don’t put yourself in a position to sleep (once your head hits that pillow you are done). Good luck and enjoy the games.
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Opening Weekend

Posted by Nick Fasulo on November 12th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

The concept was exciting, the buildup palpable. Friday, the hard start to the 2012-2013 season, was supposed to be a grand way to officially tip off the new season by building off of last year’s success of playing a game on an aircraft carrier. But this time around, things went horribly wrong. Yeah Kentucky – Maryland was a good watch. Alabama provided a thrilling finish in their victory over a dangerous South Dakota State team. And UConn surprised many with an impressive victory over Michigan State.

But two games had to be canceled. Canceled because they were being played outdoors on an aircraft carrier in humid areas. Marquette – Ohio State (the Carrier Classic)  and Georgetown – Florida (Navy-Marine Corps Classic) were canceled due to excessive condensation on the court, an embarrassing pair of incidents that will likely put an end to this novel idea, or at least make organizers proceed far more cautiously when attempting to schedule a basketball game in a unique setting.

Naturally, fans took those responsible to task on Twitter. We’ll start with those directly affected, as Marquette blog “Paint Touches” was the first to state the obvious:

Then just under 24 hours later, he dropped some valuable empirical knowledge as San Diego State and Syracuse held their Saturday afternoon shootaround.

And while it seems as though the Orange would have handled the Aztecs if they played indoors, Steve Fisher’s team struggled to get to the rim, relying on perimeter shots that were likely affected by sun and wind.

Meanwhile, Marquette/Ohio State event organizer Morale Entertainment had a major PR crisis on their hands, tweeting out the following to a number of ticked off fans.

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After the Buzzer: On Aircraft Carrier Games, Kevin Ollie’s Debut, Top Five Dunks of the Weekend…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 12th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. It’s time to put all that preseason chatter on the backburner, and start drawing first impressions, because the 2012-13 season officially got underway Friday night. Unlike the murmuring fizz of an opening that usually christens a new college hoops campaign, we were treated to several high-profile clashes over the weekend. College basketball set out to establish a definitive starting point, and this year (more than any other in recent memory), it succeeded. There are inherent risks to overanalyzing single-game sample sizes, but even after just one weekend’s action, we were able to learn quite a bit about some of the teams headlining the opening weekend. 

Your Watercooler Moment. Stick to Dry Environments (or, Why Naval Ship Games Need to Only Take Place in San Diego).

Things Started Off Well, But Quickly Deteriorated With These Games

When inclement weather forecasts pushed the Syracuse-San Diego State game from Friday to Sunday, you knew this year’s slate of naval ship games were off to a bad start. That game, which concluded Sunday evening with Syracuse pretty much dominating the hometown Aztecs (62-49) in one of the Orange’s rare non-conference games outside the state of New York, was played under gorgeous 60-degree San Diego skies. The two other scheduled match-ups – Ohio State-Marquette in South Carolina and Georgetown-Florida in Jacksonville – did not proceed as planned, as both games were called off when officials noticed condensation developing on both playing surfaces. The Florida-Georgetown game tipped off and ran into the half with minimal fuss. Up the coastline, though, the slick playing surface aboard the USS Yorktown prompted coaches and players from Ohio State and Marquette to mop the court in the hope that some good old-fashioned clean-up work could diffuse mother nature’s influence on their much-hyped shipside season-opener. As both teams quickly learned, the condensation kept coming back, and officials then made the logical move of calling the game off. Spiritually, emotionally and patriotically, the outdoor aircraft carrier games are an excellent idea. Last season’s Carrier Classic, played before gorgeous vistas and naval troops, and featuring two of the nation’s most respected programs in North Carolina and Michigan State, was a definite win. And there have been few times when a college basketball non-conference game to begin the season has drawn so much national attention. It was a special night. Logistically, though, playing basketball games outdoors in November on the East Coast is fraught with risk, and event organizers learned as much Friday. If the aircraft carrier trend is to continue, the games must be played on the West Coast, where a more favorable late fall climate will increase the chances of staging contests without conflict.

Also Worth Chatting About. Give That Man a Contract (Or, Kevin Ollie Has His Squad Playing Hard).

Kevin Ollie Cannot Escape His Former Coach’s Shadow, But With Wins Like These, He May Not Have To (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The long-term status of UConn’s head coaching job remains unresolved for the moment, but we gained some clarity on the issue Friday night. Its leading candidate, former assistant Kevin Ollie, made a resounding statement to open his one-season job trial by knocking off Big Ten contender Michigan State 66-62 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Huskies lost the core of last season’s underachieving yet talented team, including two first round draft picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) and two transfers (Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith). Backcourt mainstays Ryan Boatwright and Shabazz Napier carried the torch Friday night against the Spartans, with Napier pouring in 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and Boatwright adding 13. Highly-touted freshman Omar Calhoun logged 25 minutes but finished with just one point, two rebounds and two assists. The season could not have begun in a better way for Ollie, who faces the massive burden of proving athletic director Warde Manuel he’s the right man for the job, the right personality to succeed the legend that preceded him in Storrs. There were concerns as to whether UConn would lack motivation this season, given their ineligibility for the postseason, but that was hardly the case Friday night. The Huskies played inspired basketball against a top-tier Big Ten foe known for its toughness and grit. If I were to grade Ollie’s job candidacy one game into the season, nothing less than an A+ would suffice.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #23 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#23 – Where The Carrier Classic Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Armed Forces Classic Puts Michigan State Back in the Opening Week Spotlight

Posted by KTrahan on September 20th, 2012

If there’s a unique place to play a basketball game, Michigan State will probably find a way to play there eventually. The Spartans opened the 2011-12 season by playing North Carolina on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the inaugural Carrier Classic. Now, Tom Izzo’s squad will be opening up the 2012-13 season somewhere even stranger — in an airplane hangar at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. MSU will take on Connecticut in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic, the first regular season college basketball game to ever be played in Europe.

Last Year’s Inaugural Carrier Classic Set the Stage for Michigan State’s Entry Into This Year’s Armed Forces Classic

Games in strange settings are a clear trend in college basketball, with the Carrier Classic moving into its second year, Pittsburgh playing its Midnight Madness scrimmage on a street corner and now the Spartans and Huskies flying all the way to Europe to tip off the season. Michigan State has been a pioneer in the movement, as evidenced by the Spartans’ openers last season and next. Athletic director Mark Hollis has been a visionary in helping his team gain exposure on the national stage by scheduling games that draw in a national television audience. The media-savvy Hollis and his athletic department have grown the Spartans’ national presence across all sports, but basketball in particular. With most teams choosing to play cupcakes during the first few weeks of the season, last year Michigan State immediately threw itself into the national spotlight against a loaded North Carolina team in the Carrier Classic, both due to the magnitude of the match-up and the uniqueness of the event. It was big for the sport as a whole too, as college basketball stole the spotlight, if only for a day, in the heart of the football season.

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2011-12 Season Recap: The 12 Most Iconic Moments of the Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

A season in sports often gets remembered by a handful of different memories that fans can recall when thinking back on that year. Sometimes it’s a scene from the regular season, such as the 2004-05 NBA year that included the ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Other times it’s the final play in the championship, such as the 2001 baseball World Series walk-off base hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks. So what will it be for the 2011-12 year of college basketball? Here’s a reminder of the top moments from the season, which certainly did not lack drama. Which ones will you remember when thinking back on this season? We give you the 12 most iconic moments from 2011-12, in no particular order:

Anthony Davis Blocks Henson at the Buzzer (December 3) – Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis was perhaps the biggest story of this entire season. Taking home nearly every Player of the Year award, Davis’ domination at this level as a freshman was must-see television every time he stepped on the floor. But his rise to true stardom perhaps began when the Wildcats defeated then-#5 North Carolina early in the season at Rupp Arena on a last-second block by the lengthy forward. Davis rejected UNC star John Henson’s final shot attempt to seal the one-point win for Kentucky.

Austin Rivers Silences Carolina Crowd (February 8) – One of the two best buzzer-beaters of the season was Duke freshman Austin Rivers’ silencing of the Dean Smith Center in early February. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman knocked down a long three over Tyler Zeller to beat North Carolina and send the Tar Heel crowd into a state of utter shock.

Robinson Rejects Mizzou in Border War (February 25) – In what was the final matchup between Kansas and Missouri as rivals in the Big 12 Conference (Mizzou is off to the SEC next year), the two teams put on a classic showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. Missouri dominated the game until a late KU charge, and it was the All-America forward Thomas Robinson’s rejection of Phil Pressey with seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. Kansas won the game in the extra session to cap off a tremendous game between two top-5 teams.

Watford For the Win! (December 10) – One of the great stories of the season was Indiana’s resurgence as a top team. The Hoosiers had a tremendous year that was highlighted by their victory over #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 in December. Trailing by two on the final possession, it was this shot by Christian Watford that beat the buzzer and provided us with one of the most memorable shots, and calls, of the season.

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Be My Valentine – 14 Iconic Moments We’ve Loved This Season

Posted by EJacoby on February 14th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Are you riding solo this Valentine’s Day? If you can’t have a significant other, you can always love sports. What is more beautiful to watch than a buzzer-beating shot, an unlikely upset win, or a swarm of students rushing the court? Here to cheer you up, we present a reminder of 14 lovely moments in college basketball this season, in honor of the 14th:

Be Our Hoops Valentine...

1. Racers’ Pursuit of Perfection (December 11) – Murray State beat then-ranked Memphis on the road to improve their record to 10-0, and fans and analysts immediately began to take notice of this OVC school. This win set off the idea that the Racers could perhaps run the table this season, and while it did not happen, it would be two full months before they lost a game.

2. Teach Us How to Dougie (January 7) – Creighton has now lost three straight games to drop out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time in weeks, but they’d been providing a great story all season in the form of Doug McDermott. The sophomore forward, son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, and former teammate of Harrison Barnes in high school, went for 44 points and eight rebounds in a road win over Bradley that kickstarted his campaign for National Player of the Year. His candidacy for the award has since died down, but he’s still third in the nation in points per game (22.9).

3. Watford’s Buzzer-Beater (December 10) – Indiana got off to a fast start this season, but the Hoosiers took it to another level when they knocked off #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 back in December. Down by two, it took this shot by Christian Watford to beat the buzzer and provide us with one of the most memorable highlights of the year. The shot signified that IU basketball is officially back. See it below.

4. Rivers’ Buzzer-Beater (February 8) – Perhaps the only more recognizable moment of this season than Watford’s shot was a similar one from Duke’s Austin Rivers. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman provided this season’s iconic moment thus far by nailing a game-winner at the buzzer to beat North Carolina. The main difference between the two shots? Rivers’ came on the road, silencing the UNC crowd and sending them into shock.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. All the Way Back. College basketball trickled out last week, but with a total of 232 games taking place between Friday and Sunday nights, it’s safe to say that the November fire hose of hoops has been turned on. Every Top 25 team except one (Memphis) played at least once over the weekend, and those schools went 30-2 playing mostly unranked teams that never had much of a chance. There were a couple of exceptions, of course, and we’ll be sure to get to those below. Regardless of the quality of the ball (and it mostly ranged from adequate to poor), how satisfying was it to see regular updates over the weekend bringing you scores, highlights and storylines from games that actually count? It was fantastic, and with all of the great events coming up in the next two weeks — Champions Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, CBE, Legends, Maui, PNIT, the conference challenges — it’s a great time to be a college basketball fan.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This one is easy.

The Setting For Outdoor Basketball in San Diego Was Spectacular (credit: US Pacific Fleet)

It’s somewhat rare that a gimmicky game like the Carrier Classic could end up being so completely awesome, but you could tell when you heard the voices of the players, coaches, media and military personnel on Friday night that they all felt like they were in the midst of something special. Maybe it was the fact that it was Veterans Day, or that President Obama was there, or that the Coronado evening came through with a gorgeously orange sunset… we don’t care. What we do care about is that the setting and venue put college basketball on a pedestal (literally) for its unofficial opening night, and for a game that sometimes fails to promote itself in a manner commensurate with its passion, fanfare and excitement, the inaugural Carrier Classic was a big-time hit. Oh, and #1 North Carolina needs to work on its offensive rebounding…

Dunktastic. Is it possible that the best dunk of the entire season was on the opening weekend?  Goodness… Jeremy Lamb, who knew?

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Set Your TiVo: 11.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 11th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We had a few games earlier in the week to whet our appetite but the main course of college basketball is served tonight. One hundred thirty-one games tip off this evening in what is really the true opening night of the season. Of course, the night is highlighted by the Carrier Classic in San Diego. Let’s get to it.

#1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State (at San Diego, CA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Izzo and Williams Are All Smiles Heading Into the Inaugural Carrier Classic

  • The preseason #1 Tar Heels feature arguably the best front court in the nation with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and freshman James McAdoo. The length of the UNC front line, especially Henson, will make it incredibly difficult for Michigan State to score the basketball in the paint but the Tar Heels should also use their height as an advantage offensively. Michigan State will likely try to make this a half court game in order to limit Carolina’s transition attack. North Carolina did not shoot the ball particularly well last season so maximizing their chances inside could be advantageous if the Spartans successfully turn this into a slower-paced contest. Everyone knows Roy Williams likes to run (we’ll certainly see that) but UNC has the potential to thrive in the half court game with a good floor general in Kendall Marshall and an uber-talented front line that can score, rebound and block shots. They’re a tough matchup for anyone but especially a Michigan State team with an inexperienced and thin big man rotation.
  • For Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Draymond Green may have to do it all. He’s a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire but we expect Green to have a difficult time getting in the paint against the tall and patient Carolina defense. Green was only a 42.6% shooter from the floor last season, down significantly from his freshman and sophomore campaigns in East Lansing. As a senior, Green has to be the coach on the floor while simultaneously taking control of the game in order for State to have a chance. Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood bolsters Izzo’s back court and he’ll have to be counted on right away to provide a spark from three-point land. Michigan State is not going to beat North Carolina inside or in transition so you have to figure it’ll be up to Green, Wood and Keith Appling to knock down shots from long range.
  • The other aspect to this game, obviously, is the USS Carl Vinson itself. Neither team was a good jump shooting unit last year so the depth perception and sightlines of this unique venue could play a huge role. Even the elements, such as the slightest gust of wind, could be enough to alter a shot. North Carolina will run and look for easy baskets behind Marshall’s exquisite court vision and playmaking ability, a transition attack that may be fueled by Michigan State turnovers. The Spartans turned the ball over at an alarming rate last season, especially in the early months. If that continues, they don’t have a chance tonight. So many things have to go right for Michigan State to pull the upset but there are a lot of intangibles in play from the venue to the weather to the pressure of playing in such a setting and more. North Carolina should win, but regardless, this looks like a terrific way to open up the season.

Belmont @ #6 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

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Countdown to the Carrier Classic: The Odd Rivalry Between the Tar Heels and Spartans

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2011

For two teams that aren’t near each other, play in different conferences, and don’t have some sort of natural relationship to one another, it’s not an exaggeration to say that North Carolina and Michigan State have an intense and storied rivalry. It’s a rivalry that started out with an absolute bang.

Izzo & Williams Have Elevated This Odd Rivalry

In 1957, Michigan State had a breakthrough year with it’s first share of the Big Ten title and a run in the NCAA Tournament that took the Spartans to the Final Four. There, in the semifinals, the Spartans took on the undefeated Tar Heels in a triple overtime thriller that resulted in UNC eking out a 74-70 win. This led to a championship clash with an also-undefeated Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas team that somehow also resulted in another triple overtime slugfest and a 54-53 North Carolina victory for Frank McGuire’s team. It was North Carolina’s first national championship. In a consolation game, Michigan State would go on to play the two-time defending champions, San Francisco, which was making its first Final Four run without the great Bill Russell.  With all the big names, undefeated teams, and pair of triple overtime games, it was undoubtedly one of the best Final Fours in history. It was also only the beginning of the Spartans’ rivalry with the Tar Heels.

Since that first fateful meeting in the 1957 Final Four, it seemed like these two teams were destined for postseason clashes.  On five separate occasions, the two have squared off in the NCAA Tournament, and, unfortunately, for the Spartans, each game served as a bitter reminder of ’57. What the ’98 and ’07 clashes lacked, the ’05 and ’09 matches made up for in terms of stakes and drama. The ’05 game was another Final Four bout that was chock full of exciting moments, while the ’09 championship tilt was a remarkable rematch between two teams that had played each other at Ford Field once already that season. Of course, the rematch turned out to be nearly identical to the regular season game and quickly turned into a UNC rout.

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