Even after scoring a career-high 23 points Sunday night against Nevada, Deon Thompson admitted that his mind wasn’t entirely on the game at hand.
“I kind of was looking forward to Tuesday,” the senior forward said.
That’s because tonight, No. 9 Michigan State will visit Chapel Hill in one of those circle-it-in-red-on-your-calendar games.
The game, which is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, is a rematch of the 2009 NCAA championship game, and nobody in North Carolina or Michigan is likely to have forgotten how that ended.
The Spartans will look to exact revenge for the 89-72 blowout.
Watch the game
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Smith Center
Media: ESPN, TV; 1360 AM, radio
And the next-generation Tar Heels will have a measuring-stick game to try to validate their lofty preseason hype and No. 10 national ranking.
Michigan State returns three starters from its national runner-up team and began the season with a No. 2 national ranking.
The Spartans have gone 5-1 so far this year, with a 77-74 loss against a ranked opponent being the only blemish on their schedule.
“I was kind of disappointed when they lost to Florida just because I wanted them to stay at No. 2 when they came here,” Thompson said. “But it doesn’t even matter. We’re definitely really excited to play.”
On the other hand, UNC looks very different from the team that played MSU in April. Only three players who played more than one minute in the title game are still on the team, and one of them (Larry Drew II) played just four.
This will be the fourth time MSU and UNC have met in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with the Spartans holding a 2-1 lead. In last year’s challenge, UNC cruised to a 35-point win.
North Carolina has a 9-3 lead all-time against MSU.
Today will also be Michigan State’s first true road game of the season. MSU was 9-1 last year on an opponent’s home court.
“I enjoy watching them play,” said UNC coach Roy Williams, who will be looking for his 601st career win.
“(MSU coach Tom Izzo) is so competitive himself. His teams play very hard; they play unselfishly.”
Marcus Ginyard, who missed both of the meetings with Michigan State last year due to an injury, said tonight is just “the next game on the schedule.”
But a rematch of the national title game, as well as the first of three December games against top-10 teams, carries added weight.
“They’ll be fired up, but I think we will be also,” Williams said.
“If they beat us, we’re not going to give them any trophy, and if we beat them we’re not going to get another one. It’s a regular season game. We’re going to try to play them as hard as we can.”
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