[Bumped. TMadison is hereby designated the Official ACC Correspondent of The Only Colors, Inc. Also, does this get me out of doing a game preview tonight? -KJ]
Michigan State Spartans @ North Carolina Tar Heels
December 1st, 2009
Is it fair to say that this one means more than any other non-conference game on schedule?
- First true road matchup for the Spartans
- Features two teams that like to push the tempo
- Carolina lost more than 80% of their scoring from last season, yet reloads with top talent
- Two future hall of fame coaches with Tom Izzo and Roy Williams
- Opportunity to play a historically-elite school on their home court
- Modest redemption from the '08-'09 disappointing losses last December and April
- Chance to win back-to-back games against UNC in the Dean Dome
- Last time we beat UNC on their home court, we went on to win a National Championship
Dean Smith Center
Since relocating to the heart of Tar Heel country, I've had the opportunity to attend a few UNC basketball games. A good friend of mine is a season ticket holder who was kind enough to invite me to some non-conference games, but far too sensible to offer up his other ticket for the big game tomorrow. Most recently, I went to the matchup against Gardner-Webb on the 23rd where Carolina prevailed 93-72. The Dean Smith Center is fourth largest in D-I and holds about 7,000 more than the Breslin. Despite the greater attendance, the student section is at the baseline only, reserving the rest of the seats for alumni and season ticket holders. The relatively lesser student presence creates a missing piece of game time atmosphere that the Izzone provides: the "in your face" disruptive volume. Then again, I may have been spoiled after four years of Izzone tickets. I'm certain the crowd will be much louder when the Spartans come to Chapel Hill. All-in-all, the Dean Dome itself is a traditionally solid arena. If you ever have an opportunity to see a UNC game there, I recommend it.
The Four Factors: Effective FG%
The talent in the post is the strength of this Carolina team. Deon Thompson (1.51 PPS), the Heels' go-to guy, is near-automatic and presented matchup problems for the Spartans last year. Ed Davis (1.78 PPS) is extremely athletic and ever-present (reminds me of Delvon Roe at 100%, well, maybe 80%). Tyler Zeller (1.61 PPS) has an effortless jumper. Against Gardner-Webb, the bigs were able to create high-percentage shots with ease. Through seven games, they've shot 55.4% 2P% and 36.0% 3P%. The team is still searching for a consistent deep-ball threat. Will Graves was supposed to be that threat, but has shot 27% beyond the arc. Larry Drew II and Marcus Ginyard are the other threats and have had moderate success. Expect their production to come from driving and dishing or just feeding the bigs in the paint.
The Four Factors: Turnover%
Carolina likes to run (2009 Adj. Tempo of 73.9), but their youth has marginally limited their ability to get up the court (2010 Adj. Tempo of 69.5). The PG spot, occupied by Drew II and some assistance from Ginyard and Dexter Strickland, was the biggest concern for Heels fans entering the season. Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton have run the show since '06-'07, so Drew II has some big shoes to fill. He is answering the call for the starting spot averaging 6.7 assists to 3.0 turnovers, but depth is still a concern. Roy has been experimenting with the lineups over the first six games, even moving players out of their comfortable position. Overall, their youth is starting to show in the turnover department as the Heels sport a turnover % of 22.8, which will improve as the season progresses. I'd much rather play this team now than in March.
The Four Factors: Off. Reb%
After pulling the scouting report on kenpom, I thought I was looking at last year's team. UNC posted a 43.3% Offensive rebounding rate through seven games. Although rebounding is a strength of this year's squad, I couldn't help but notice a wealth of missed opportunities during the Gardner-Webb game. A much less talented team was getting rebounds when the Heels were out of position. That said Thompson and Davis average 8.9 and 9.9 rebounds per game, respectively. Six others average between two and four rebounds per game. Izzo's focus on rebounding will prove crucial in this matchup, if executed well.
The Four Factors: FTA/FGA
Getting to the charity stripe doesn't occur as often as you'd think for the Heels. Roy leads a very unselfish team, frequently dishing to the open man instead of forcing tough shots (67.3% A/FM). Combined with a tendency to create easy buckets in transition, the Heels have a relatively moderate FTA/FGA (41.0%).
Keys to winning:
- Disruption of Larry Drew II. Prohibiting his passing lanes and getting him out of sync creates transition baskets and disrupts Carolina's flow. Personally, I'd love to see Allen or KL2 assigned to this task.
- Strong start. In both of the losses last year, the game was out of control early. Getting out to an early lead in a hostile environment against a young team will lead to more UNC turnovers and three-point attempts, which is not what Roy would care to see. Not to mention the Heels have performed much better in the 1st half than the 2nd.
- Superior rebounding. The most critical component. Limiting the easy put-backs for the Heels strips Roy's team of one of their strengths and puts us in the driver's seat.
- Confidence. This team performs admirably when they have that swagger. Ten-fold for Chris Allen. Act like we should be in control of this game and we will.