North Carolina (4-2) vs. Michigan State (7-0)
East Lansing, Mich. -- Breslin Center
Wednesday, 9 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
"Tom Izzo does a great job. He’s a good as a person as you can be. He’s a tough guy. I love watching his teams play. I love everything about the way he coaches, the way he controls himself and the way he conducts himself. I just think he’s the epitome of what a great college basketball coach should be like." -- UNC head coach Roy Williams
Season to Date: No. 1 Michigan State enters Wednesday’s contest with a 7-0 record. Tom Izzo’s squad has notably defeated three power conference teams thus far – then-No. 1 Kentucky (78-74), Virginia Tech (96-77) and Oklahoma (87-76).
Ballin’ Backcourt: Gary Harris, the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has lived up to his preseason All-America billing in leading the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game. The preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, who sat out MSU’s last game to rest an injured ankle, has struggled with his shot to date (41.4 percent/26.4 percent from 3), although he’s benefited from having third-year starting point guard Keith Appling (16.9 ppg, 5.6 apg) alongside to share the load.
Post Production: Adreian Payne’s decision to return to Michigan State for his senior year immediately elevated the Spartans to a national title contender this season. The 6-foot-10, 245-pounder garnered preseason All-America honors and has been a force on the interior, averaging 15.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Not only is Payne 13 blocks shy of setting the school record for a career, but he’s also shooting 47.6 percent from 3-point range (10-of-21) this season.
Offensive Strengths: Adding to MSU’s standard rebounding and physical play is a quality offensive attack. The Spartans are shooting 50.6 percent from the floor, which is good for 23rd nationally. MSU is also 61st in 3-point field goal percentage (38.8) as four different players are averaging more than one made 3-pointer per game. After converting 10 or more 3-pointers in a game just once in 2012-13, the Spartans have already accomplished that feat three times through seven games.
Ball Control: Michigan State leads the country in both assists (22.0) and assist-turnover ratio (2.1) and ranks 41st with a plus-3.6 turnover margin.
More of the Same: The Spartans are holding opponents to 38.3 percent shooting (31st nationally) and possess a plus-5.4 rebounding edge.
Last Meeting: The top-ranked Tar Heels defeated the Spartans, 67-55, onboard the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011. The Carrier Classic was the first college basketball game played on an aircraft carrier. Harrison Barnes led UNC with 17 points while John Henson flirted with a triple-double with 12 points, seven rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 11-3, including the last six. The series is tied at 2-2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
11 Keith Appling (6-1, 185, Sr.) - 16.9 ppg, 5.6 apg
14 Gary Harris (6-4, 210, So.) - 17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
22 Branden Dawson (6-6, 225, Jr.) - 10.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg
10 Matt Costello (6-9, 240, So.) - 3.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
5 Adreian Payne (6-10, 245, Sr.) - 15.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg
45 Denzel Valentine (6-5, 220, So.) - 8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg
20 Travis Trice (6-0, 170, Jr.) - 7.6 ppg, 3.1 apg
Roster & Bios
(Photos from USA Today Sports)