Michigan State is having a bit of an identity crisis this year. For one, they are 5th in the country in opponents block percentage so far. This is extremely low for the Spartans, especially since they take it into the teeth of the defense so much. North Carolina has some big guys, but other than Ed Davis none of them are really huge shot blocking threats.
Kalin Lucas has been the man so far for the Spartans, with an eFG of 61.5%. He also has a 21.6 assist rate, but he has made 15% of his team’s turnovers so far. The Spartans as a whole have been turning it over less than last year, but they haven’t been forcing turnovers at all. They are 309th nationally.
North Carolina, meanwhile, has been struggling with the losses of Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough. Deon Thompson is leading the team in scoring, but doing so at just a 56 eFG. Ed Davis has been extremely efficient (68 eFG), but he hasn’t been shooting very much. Whether it’s a matter of North Carolina not getting him the ball enough or him being too timid with the basketball, it remains to be seen. Marcus Ginyard has probably been UNC’s best player, with a 117 O-Rating coupled with a 63.3 eFG. He also has a 21.4 assist rate and he has been playing his customarily stellar defense. Ginyard’s production will be a key to Carolina going deep in March.
This should be an interesting matchup. On the surface Michigan State has the advantage, but Carolina’s strengths (offensive rebounding, not turning it over) can counteract Michigan State’s rebounding, and coupled with Michigan State’s lack of forcing turnovers, UNC won’t have too many empty possessions. However, due to Michigan State’s guard advantage, I am still picking the Spartans.
The rest of my ACC/Big 10 picks are after the jump.
Purdue over Wake
NC State over Northwestern
Maryland over Indiana
Virginia Tech over Iowa
Michigan over BC
Duke over Wisconsin
Ohio State over Florida State
Clemson over Illinois
Minnesota over Miami
That brings it, with Penn State’s win over Virginia, to 6 Big 10 and 5 ACC (assuming I counted correctly). I guess I’m picking the Big 10 to win the challenge for the first time ever. Feel free to add your predictions in the comments, and also to use this post as the open thread for tonight’s UNC-MSU clash.