Few, if any, early-season college basketball games are as anticipated or intriguing as when top-ranked Indiana faces No. 14 North Carolina in Tuesday night's Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
And with the entire country watching, the Hoosiers will prove why they are truly the No. 1 team in the country.
This game promises to be a lot of fun. Early in the season, both teams are already scoring points at will, with Indiana averaging 88.7 per game (third in the nation) and North Carolina scoring 85.3 (10th).
The Tar Heels are excellent on the boards (46 rebounds per game, fifth in the nation) and set one another up quite nicely in their quick-hitting attack (19.2 assists per game, seventh in the nation), while Indiana simply shoots lights out (.525 field-goal percentage, seventh in the country).
But where Indiana has the advantage is on individual talent. I'd put James Michael McAdoo of North Carolina against any player in the country, but Indiana has top talents in Cody Zeller and Christian Watford and has five players scoring double-digit points on the season.
Seriously, don't underestimate Zeller.
While Indiana may struggle some against North Carolina's size—and let's be honest, playing against the Tar Heels' fast break is never easy—the Tar Heels will be without talented wing player P.J. Hairston.
That hurts and means much will fall on the shoulders of McAdoo and Reggie Bullock. At some point, I think Indiana's offensive balance and ability to score at a fast clip like North Carolina will do the Tar Heels in.
Oh, and don't underestimate Indiana's home-court advantage in this one either. The Hoosiers are 22-1 at home since last season and were one of only two teams to beat national champions Kentucky a year ago.
Which team wins?
In other words, when you come into Assembly Hall to face this current crop of players, you better bring your A-game.
Indiana is going to have some speed bumps along the way, but I don't see that happening tonight. North Carolina has already hit some bumps of its own—none bigger than the team's surprising 82-71 loss to Butler—and isn't ready to knock off a team of Indiana's talent.
This will be a great game, but Indiana will pull away late. Don't look away or you'll miss a slew of buckets in a game the Hoosiers win, 87-81.
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