When: Friday, November 11, 7 PM ET
Where: USS Carl Vinson, San Diego, CA
The North Carolina Tar Heels enter this season with some ultra-high expectations. After a deep run in the Tournament last year and the return of all five starters, the Tar Heels are the early favorites to win the 2012 National Championship, entering the year as the near-unanimous No. 1 team in nearly every major poll.
The Heels will once again be led by superstar Harrison Barnes, who after a slow start last season came on strong in ACC play and helped carry the team to a spot in the Elite Eight.
Alongside Barnes will be front-court stalwarts John Henson and Tyler Zeller, both of whom will be scoring and rebounding machines once again. Kendall Marshall is firmly in the driver's seat as the Heels' starting point guard, and with the addition of top recruits James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, North Carolina is a force to be reckoned with in the ACC and beyond.
Facing off against the Tar Heels will be the Michigan State Spartans, who will look to rebound from last year's embarrassing collapse down the stretch. Michigan State will need to find ways to replace team leader Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Korie Lucious, the team's first, second, and fourth-best scorers, respectively.
Draymond Green, who averaged 12.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game last year, will be a major frount-court presence for the Spartans this year, and will have to step up his game and take on a bigger leadership role in order for Michigan State to be competitive in the Big Ten.
The inaugural Carrier Classic is sure to be an exciting affair, and no doubt Michigan State will give North Carolina a big early-season challenge.
A lot of the games on the schedule after this one are tune-up games for the Top 25 in the polls (heck, most of them aren't even on national TV), but there are still some interesting storylines and big implications down the road for some.