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December 2, 2013

UNC-Michigan State Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC's topsy-turvy season might be just beginning and Tar Heel fans might want to take some medicine to settle their stomach as the basketball team takes them on a crazy ride otherwise known as the 2013- 2014 season.

After stunning the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals last weekend, the Heels did nothing to keep that momentum rolling as they faltered on the road against the UAB Blazers 63-59.

UNC isn't a school that schedules lightly in their non-conference schedule and this week is a clear indicator of that. Roy Williams takes his team on the road to East Lansing to play the No. 1 ranked Michigan State Spartans.

Can UNC get a bi-polar streak going this week? Will an upset of another top-five team be more of an indicator of how good this team or are the performances against Belmont and UAB more of an indicator as to what kind of team this is?

This week will answer some of those questions and with that, let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into this Wednesday's contest.

Wing Woes

If you've been paying attention (and even if you haven't) then you know that UNC's team is deprived of a traditional wing presence this season. A lack of shooters has prompted Williams to place guys in awkward positions on the court.

James Michael McAdoo has been one of the more out of place Tar Heels as he has had to spend time playing small forward. Already a player that has struggled with consistency, the inconsistency in where he's being asked to play on the court has wielded some bad numbers from McAdoo.

He shot 3-of-13 from the field against UAB and only had six points. Also, being further away from the basket has hurt his rebounding effort at times. He only snagged four boards against the Blazers.

Another obvious area of concern for the Heels is their perimeter defense. This past Sunday's game marked the fourth straight game that UNC has allowed a perimeter player to score 25 points or more against them. The latest guy to break down North Carolina's defense was Chad Frazier when he put up 25 points.

Don't be surprised if the zone defense is in full effect as Gary Harris and Keith Appling look to carve up the Heels.

3-pt Shooting

UNC is awful from beyond the arc.

Everybody, with the exception of Marcus Paige,is ice-cold when shooting from long distance. UNC has made 20 three-pointers this season. Paige has made 17 of those made buckets.

Only four guys, Paige, McAdoo, Tokoto and Nate Britt, have even attempted a shot from distance. This has allowed teams to sag off and play without fear of UNC burning them from deep. Without a true perimeter presence, UNC's one area of surplus, it's inside players, haven't been able to put their true mark on games.

Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have had some good games but if UAB's strategy against UNC is any indication, they may have seen their easiest days already until somebody steps up and starts hitting shots from outside. Meeks and Johnson scored seven and eight points respectively. The eight points from Johnson were a season low.

UNC's best game thus far came against Louisville because the Cardinals were willing to engage the Tar Heels in an up-and-down style game that best-suited their needs. Don't expect the rugged Spartans to play anything other than the traditional slug-it-out style that is customary in the Big Ten Wednesday night.

Not that Michigan State can't speed it up if they want to. They are averaging 85 points per game after all.

But if they stick to the blueprint that's been laid out there and UNC doesn't execute its Plan B, it could be a long night for the Heels.

Kennedy Meeks

After putting on a dazzling display of full court passing against Louisville, Meeks didn't record a single assist against UAB. In fact, Meeks hasn't recorded an assist against anybody except Louisville all year long.

Without a very good half-court offense, Meeks' catch-and-throw ability is something that needs to happen every game. When he's able to do that he's infinitely more valuable to the team and their chances to win.

#1/#1 Michigan State
(7-0, 0-0)
#25/NR North Carolina
(4-2, 0-0)

Game Day
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time: 9:00 PM EST
Venue: Breslin Center (14,759)

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 91/XM 91)

Michigan State at a glance
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Nickname: Spartans
Colors: Green & White
Conference: Big Ten
Arena: Breslin Center (14,759)
2012-2013 Record: 27-9 (13-5)
Last Game: W 98-65 over Mount St. Mary's on November 29.
More on the Spartans:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Mount St. Mary's)

C - Alex Gauna
F - Matt Costello
G - Alvin Ellis III
G - Travis Trice

G - Denzel Valentine

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Gary Harris (17.7 PPG) Keith Appling (16.9 PPG)

Rebounding: Brandon Dawson (9.7) Adreian Payne (7.7 RPG)

Assists: Keith Appling (5.6 APG) Denzel Valentine (4.0 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
Rebounds Per Game: 39.7
Assist Per Game: 22.0
Field Goal Percentage: .506
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .388

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against UAB)

F - Jame Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Joel James
G - Marcus Paige

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (20.8 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (13.8 PPG)

Rebounding: Brice Johnson (7.2 RPG) James Michael McAdoo (6.3 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (3.8 APG) J.P. Tokoto (2.5 APG)

Team Statistics
oints Per Game: 76.7
Rebounds Per Game: 39.5
Assist Per Game: 15.3
Field Goal Percentage: .483
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .333

He's still rounding into college basketball shape in getting his body down to the size it needs to get too but he's more than capable of contributing to the fastbreak offense Williams loves to employ.

If he can turn it on against Michigan State, maybe UNC can repeat their performance against Louisville in East Lansing.


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