Tar Heels, Spartans ready to take flight

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Michigan State and North Carolina meet in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Michigan State Spartans are two of the most storied basketball programs in the nation. Friday they will etch their names in the history books yet again, playing in the first-ever college basketball game aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.

Michigan State W2W4

The Spartans return just one player this season who averaged over seven points per game and face a possible rebuilding year.

A staple of the Michigan State program under coach Tom Izzo has been offensive rebounding and frontcourt scoring. Last year, however, the team struggled in both of areas.

They grabbed 35.3 percent of their missed shots, their worst offensive rebounding rate since 2004. They shot 46.9 percent inside the arc, their worst two-point shooting percentage in the last 15 seasons.

Draymond Green is expected to shoulder much of the scoring and rebounding load this season. Green was strong on the defensive glass last year (6.2 per game, third in Big Ten), but needs to improve his offensive game in the post. He averaged 0.73 points per post-up play, third-worst among Big Ten players (min. 30 plays).

However, Green was effective passing out of the post and finding the open man. His 28 passes from the post resulted in 38 points (1.36 points per play) and he turned the ball over just four of the 32 times the defense committed to him in the post.

North Carolina W2W4

North Carolina relied heavily on its transition game to score last year. Only two teams attempted more field goals on the break than the Tar Heels and only three teams scored more in transition.

While the Tar Heels were comfortable playing at the fastest pace in the league, they were inefficient in transition, ranking ninth in the ACC in transition points per play.

Harrison Barnes Last Season
By Starting PG

Preseason All-American Harrison Barnes averaged 15.7 points per game last season, but initially had trouble adjusting to the college game. But once Kendall Marshall took over as the starting point guard on January 18, Barnes found his groove and averaged more than 19 points the rest of the way.

Barnes’ chemistry with Marshall was highlighted by his much-improved shooting in both spot-up situations and coming off screens. Barnes shot 27 percent and averaged 0.75 points per spot-up play in the 17 games with Larry Drew II as the primary point guard. With Marshall, those numbers jumped to 40.4 percent and 1.08.