The Miami Hurricanes (3-1) can make a national statement Wednesday night as they host the 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans (5-1) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. This veteran squad just might pull off the upset.
Both teams won their most recent games, but while UM soundly defeated Detroit by double digits on Nov. 24, MSU eked out a sloppy 63-60 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette this past Sunday.
The Spartans are turnover-prone and Miami's backcourt should take advantage. Defensive-minded guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott force plenty of steals.
Scott missed three straight contests due to an NCAA suspension before debuting over the weekend. Michigan State mastermind Tom Izzo refers to him as "the guy that stirs the drink" for the Hurricanes. Indeed, his driving ability and decision-making could be the difference.
Head coach Jim Larranaga encourages everybody—even senior center Reggie Johnson—to attempt the open three-pointer. Scott's dribble penetration draws defenders and gives his teammates good looks. He'll also have opportunities to finish at the rim against the undersized Spartans (only Adreian Payne is taller than 6'9").
Izzo's men will be participating in the first true road game of their 2012-13 season.
But conveniently, Gary Harris (sprained shoulder) and Travis Trice (concussion, broken nose) are recovering from injuries. Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press reports that Harris, a freshman shooting guard, is closer to 100 percent.
It's been more than a decade since the 'Canes last beat a reputable nonconference opponent! You'd have to go all the way back to Dec. 15, 2001 when they knocked off the No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers at American Airlines Arena.
Yet Miami challenged the ACC's elite in Larranaga's first season. The Duke Blue Devils and Florida State Seminoles were both nationally ranked when The U bolstered its NIT resume in February with hard-fought victories against both teams.
This matchup at the BankUnited Center could potentially decide which power conference wins the 2012 series. The Big Ten can clinch bragging rights with a split of tonight's half-dozen games.
Michigan State-Miami tips off on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET. A top-five clash—No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Blue Devils—follows at 9:30 p.m.