The More They Stay the Same… #11 UNC 89, #9 Michigan State 82. Ok, can we now all just agree that UNC just has Michigan State’s number? For the fifth straight time, and the third episode within one calendar year, North Carolina made Tom Izzo’s Spartans look like charlatans on the basketball court. How is this possible? How can a team like Nevada hang with the Heels a few days ago for most of the game, and a loaded, deep, talented, athletic team like MSU continually get punked and embarrassed by the same squad? Well, motivation helps. Ed Davis (22/6) and Larry Drew II (18/6 assts) both had career highs in points, and in watching the game, it seemed as if Carolina could get and make nearly any shot it wanted. Michigan State, for some reason, seems to think that it can run with Carolina, and as they learned for the third time with the same core of Lucas, Morgan, et al., they cannot. Why do they try? The thing about MSU is that they weren’t the second-best team last year, and they surely aren’t this year either — but aren’t we used to this with Izzo’s teams by now? They typically underachieve in the regular season, only to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament. The problem is that teams that are routinely blown out do not win national championships. Granted, Michigan State made a run in this game to get the margin back to a respectable score, but Carolina was never seriously threatened after the first ten minutes of the game. So what went wrong other than allowing UNC to shoot lights-out again? How about 2-20 from three (and many of those misses were open looks), a terrible evening from deep for a team that came into this game shooting 37% from distance? How about allowing point guards Drew and Dexter Strickland to torch the MSU defense for repeated forays to the rim for easy buckets (9-12 FG)? How about the rough-and-tumble Spartans getting outrebounded (36-34) by the admittedly bigger (but tougher?) Heels? Honestly, the reason we thought this game would go Carolina’s way was because they were playing at home, but we’re not sure that it would have gone any differently had they played this game on Mars. Michigan State simply cannot get over on Carolina, and it’s starting to get ridiculous. At least Raymar Morgan (18/6) looked healthy and played well, right?
ACC/Big Ten Challenge. We’re deadlocked at 3-3 going into the last day, and yeah, it’s gone exactly as we predicted so far. Which of course means all five games tomorrow will go crazy — expect all kinds of upset specials. Seriously, though, we still think it comes down to the BC-Michigan game tomorrow night. Winner of that one wins the Challenge (our choice: UM).
- #6 Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58. Wake played well enough for a half to win this game, but the Deacs don’t have enough offensive threats beyond Al-Farouq Aminu when he has an off game (12/10 on 3-11 FG including 6 TOs) and they turn the ball over like it’s their job. But we knew that already. Purdue, on the other hand, is only getting production from their Big Three of Robbie Hummel (11/11 on 3-11 FG), E’Twaun Moore (22/4/3 assts) and JaJuan Johnson (21/9/3 blks) — the rest of the team only scored fifteen points. That’ll carry the Boilermakers against the lesser teams, especially in Mackey Arena, but we have concerns about when they start playing athletic teams like WFU that also have multiple serious scorers. Wake played superb defense, holding Purdue to 34% for the game and 1-15 from deep, but their endemic problems with ballhandling and lack of a three-point threat will be problematic all season.
- Northwestern 65, NC State 53. Northwestern is quickly becoming our second favorite team of this season (behind Portland). With the injury troubles that they endured to start this season, we would have completely understood if the Wildcats had simply packed it in and hoped for next year. But they didn’t. Beating Notre Dame, Iowa State and NC State isn’t exactly equivalent to Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, as they’ll face in the Big Ten, but the key is that NW is gaining experience with winning and they’re doing it in environments away from the comforts of home. Tonight Michael Thompson stepped up with 22/4 and Jeremy Nash also chipped in 12/8/4 assts in the win. The Wildcats could realistically enter Big Ten play at 10-1 by the end of this month. Good for them.