It was just over seven months ago when the North Carolina Tar Heels played the Michigan State Spartans in the Final Four in Detroit.
It was deemed a massive home-court advantage for the Spartans, a team which defeated the likes of Connecticut, Kansas, and Louisville, but the results were less than favorable. North Carolina had a team full of future NBA players, while Michigan State had a relatively young team just learning how to win. North Carolina’s win was inevitable.
And while the two teams clash again Tuesday evening, it will be a lot different in terms of the personnel—at least for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina has lost players like Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, and Ty Lawson to the professional ranks. On the other sideline, Michigan State has essentially the same players and added a couple of big guys down low.
I’m not one of those guys who seeks out big games early in the season, and while this game will be great in terms of gauging where both teams are on physical and mental levels, it still means very little in the end.
I mean, look at last season. The Tar Heels had a stellar regular season and accomplished most of what they wanted to accomplish, and the Spartans took the road less traveled. It took big wins over big-time programs just for the Spartans to meet with North Carolina in the title game.
A game in November is not as crucial to a team’s well-being as one in January or February. I say this because teams are still gelling with one another early in the year, where as the system should be finely tuned by the time the season is drawing to a close.
This game will be looked at as a national championship rematch, or maybe how the Spartans want revenge, but, at the end of the day, it is just another game on the schedule.
The Spartans should come out on top, considering the amount of big-game experience they have as opposed to the Tar Heels’ younger players, but poor starts have been an unlikely trend plaguing Michigan State the past couple of weeks. If MSU comes out without showing any urgency or acting as if it is playing some cupcake, they will get beat.
However, even if the Spartans come up short against the Tar Heels, I think Coach Tom Izzo will momentarily accept that. Any loss in November can only help make your team better, especially when that loss doesn’t occur in the national championship game.