Wouldn't you have loved to travel to Hawaii to spend a few days playing basketball in the Maui Invitational when you were in college like the kids from North Carolina and Mississippi State will get to do on Monday?
Who wouldn't have signed up for that?
Unfortunately, most of us don't have the talent on a basketball court possessed by North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston or Marcus Paige. Some would argue that includes Mississippi State, which will head into this game with just six scholarship players.
Ouch. Not the way you want to head into a game facing North Carolina, that's for sure. But can the Bulldogs defy the odds and pull off the upset anyway?
Where: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, HI
When: Monday, November 19 at 6 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2; WatchESPN
Listen: Sirius 123
Betting Line: North Carolina (-18.5), according to Bet Online
North Carolina Injuries (via USA Today)
None to Report
F Colin Borchert, Suspension, Out Indefinitely
G Jalen Steele, Wrist, Out
What's At Stake?
This would be a huge resume win for Mississippi State, especially given how depleted the team's depth is. For North Carolina, this is just another game the No. 11 team in the country should win.
What They're Saying
Robbie Pickeral of ESPN.com did a nice job of concisely previewing both of these teams heading into the Maui Invitational. We start with the Tar Heels:
Although the 11th-ranked Tar Heels are still getting their bearings after losing four starters from last season's Elite Eight team, they've got some talented pieces to meld together, beginning with sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo and junior wing Reggie Bullock. This three-day tournament will be an important test, though, for UNC's ballhandling (freshman Marcus Paige is the starter), scoring (it has struggled in stretches) and confidence. If any falter, so could the Heels.
And now, we lament the depleted roster of the Mississippi State Bulldogs:
The Bulldogs have only six healthy scholarship players with which to play three games in three days. Junior guard Jalen Steele, who recorded 16 points in MSU’s season-opening loss, broke his wrist in the team’s win over Florida Atlantic. The Bulldogs also suspended forward Colin Borchert last week for violating team rules, and freshmen Jacoby Davis and DeAndre Applewhite are also out for the season with knee injuries.
Most Important Player to Watch: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
After three games this season, McAdoo is leading the Tar Heels in scoring (21.0 PPG) and rebounding (11.3 RPG). In other words, this guy is pretty good.
He's also one of the more experienced players on a team that lost a lot of talent last season and will rely on contributions from key freshman such as Paige and Brice Johnson. And without Borchert on the court for the Bulldogs, I'm not sure there is a player that will be able to slow McAdoo down.
Expect a big night for one of the better players in the country.
Key Matchup: Trivante Bloodman vs. Marcus Paige
The battle of the young point guards will be a major factor in this game. Bloodman will have to be a steadying force for Mississippi State, slowing the game down, picking his shots wisely and running the offense smoothly so the Bulldogs can earn some easy buckets and keep up on the scoreboard with the Tar Heels.
For Paige, the key will be to keep North Carolina flowing, avoid the turnovers and take what the game gives him. The Tar Heels have superior talent and depth, but if Paige begins to press and make poor decisions—and if North Carolina goes cold from outside—they could be in trouble
Too much talent, too much depth, too much McAdoo. North Carolina wins, 78-65.
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