Previewing Michigan State

The Tar Heels tip-off the much anticipated 2011-12 season on Friday under unique circumstances -- outdoors on an aircraft carrier -- against Michigan State. The game is set for 7 p.m. in San Diego on ESPN.

North Carolina (0-0) vs. Michigan State (0-0)

San Diego, Calif. -- USS Carl Vinson

7:00pm -- ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas)


"My first impression when I walked in far superseded whatever I thought it could be, and we've been talking about this for seven or eight years. If you could have seen our players' eyes as we walked in, you just had such an appreciation for what we're doing. It's bigger than a game. It's bigger than North Carolina against Michigan State. It's kind of a dream come true for us. In a small, small way, I think we feel we're giving a little bit back and maybe recognizing the people that deserve to be recognized, instead of just the athletes." – MSU head coach Tom Izzo


A Look Back to Last Season: Michigan State finished the 2010-11 season with a 19-15 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Big Ten play. Senior guard Kalin Lucas led the team with a 17.0 points-per-game average, while Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe also played significant roles before departing during the offseason. The Spartans lost in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to Penn State, 61-48, before falling to UCLA, 78-76, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Preseason Expectations: The Spartans were picked third in the preseason 2011-12 Big Ten media poll.

Feeling Green: Senior forward Draymond Green returns as just one of 10 players in the nation in 2010-11 to lead his team in rebounding (8.6) and assists (4.1). If that wasn't enough, the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder also scored 12.6 points per game for head coach Tom Izzo's squad. Green became just the third Spartan to post a triple-double in a season, notching two last year. The three-time captain is a preseason All-Big Ten selection and will be the go-to player for Michigan State this season.

Inexperience Reigns Supreme: Only two players on the current roster – Green and sophomore guard Keith Appling (6.4 ppg) – averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season for MSU. There are seven players on the roster that have never played for the Spartans. Izzo will count on a freshman class that includes McDonald's All-America Branden Dawson. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard averaged 28.7 points, 18.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists during his senior season at Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind.

Familiar Name, Different Team: If Brandon Wood's name doesn't jump out at you at first glance, a friendly reminder will get you up to speed. Wood earned first-team All-Horizon League honors at Valparaiso last season before taking advantage of the NCAA's transfer policy that allowed him to play this year in East Lansing after graduating in May. In UNC's 88-77 victory over Valpo in Nov. 2009, Wood connected on 12 of his 19 field goal attempts, including a 6-of-10 mark from long range, en route to scoring 30 points in 34 minutes of action.

History Against Top-Ranked Opponents: Michigan State is 3-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the AP poll.

Spartan Connection: Fifth-year senior and co-captain Austin Thornton will play in front of his brother, Thomas, on Friday. Thomas is a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated No. 9 Michigan State, 89-82, on Dec. 1, 2009, at the Smith Center. Ed Davis scored 22 points and Larry Drew added 18 points as the Tar Heels held the Spartans to just one field over a seven-minute stretch in the first half. UNC led 50-34 at halftime and eventually increased that lead to 19 points before MSU cut its deficit to six points in the closing minutes.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series over Michigan State, 10-3, and has won five straight games over the Spartans.

Projected Starters:
11 Keith Appling (6-1, 190, So.) – 6.4 ppg, 1.3 apg
30 Brandon Wood (6-2, 190, Sr.) – 16.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
22 Branden Dawson (6-6, 220, Fr.) – Gary (Ind.) Wallace
23 Draymond Green (6-7, 230, Sr.) – 12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.1 apg
5 Adreian Payne (6-10, 240, So.) – 2.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Top Reserves:
25 Derrick Nix (6-9, 270, Jr.) – 2.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg
0 Russell Byrd (6-7, 205, Fr.) – Redshirted in 2010-11
13 Austin Thornton (6-5, 205, Sr.) – 2.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg
20 Travis Trice (6-0, 170, Fr.) – Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne

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