Michigan State Spartans vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Game Preview

Jeff SmithCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2009

The No. 9 Michigan State Spartans will travel to Chapel Hill on Tuesday to take on defending NCAA champs, the No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The last time these two teams met was April 6, 2009. The Heels stomped out the Spartans NCAA Championship dreams with an 89-72 victory in the 2008 NCAA title game.

This is the fourth time the Spartans and Tar Heels have met in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, as the two teams met in the first two years, and renewed the series last year. North Carolina leads the all-time series, 9-3.

Michigan State suffered their first loss against Florida on Friday night in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. After shooting .454 from the field in the first three games of the season, including .278 from three-point range, the Spartans have improved their shooting in the last three contests. MSU is connecting on 55.6 percent of its shots over the last three games, including 46.9 percent from three-point range.

Defensively the Spartans have limited opponents to 36.9 percent on the season, and has been equally stingy on its three-point defense, holding teams to 25.0 percent shooting behind the arc, holding four of six opponents below 23 percent.

The Tar Heels are coming off an 80-73 win over Nevada. Deon Thompson led the team with a career-high 23 points in the win. UNC also beat a ranked Ohio State team in New York two weeks ago only to lose to Syracuse by double figures the next night.

The Tar Heels look very different from the team that won the program’s fifth NCAA championship in 2008. Four-year star Tyler Hansbrough is gone, as are Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. Senior Deon Thompson leads the team averaging 17.7 points per game, along with sophomore Ed Davis and fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard.

The odds makers currently have the Tar Heels as three -point favorites.

Look for this to be a tight game. The Spartans will be looking to avenge last years ousting by the Tar Heels. Michigan State wins this by 7 .