Spartans preparing for UNC's best

December, 1, 2008
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Michigan State isn't ready for North Carolina.

But, as Spartans head coach Tom Izzo said Sunday afternoon, who is?

Still, the next game for the Spartans is against the top-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday night in Detroit at Ford Field in the headline ACC-Big Ten Challenge game (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

The Spartans left the Old Spice Classic 2-1, and that would have been OK had the one loss come in Sunday night's championship game and not in a first-round setback to Maryland on Thursday.

Beating Oklahoma State and Wichita State for the two wins wasn't the Spartans' idea of a good time at Disney.

"We thought we'd be in the championship game, but things happen and we lost,'' Michigan State sophomore guard Kalin Lucas said.

Lucas said the lack of focus against Maryland and poor free-throw shooting (12-of-27) were the main reasons for the loss.

"We know North Carolina will play great defense and run on us and if we're not making our free throws they'll beat us bad,'' Lucas said. "We need to regroup, get back, focus and do the things that work for us.''

Izzo was especially despondent over the poor "checking" by his perimeter guards, notably Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. He said they've got to do a much better job against the Tar Heels. UNC will come at the Spartans with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green for starters and a wave off the bench.

"It's going to be fun, and we've got two days to get ready,'' Izzo said of the Tar Heels. "If we don't, we'll get embarrassed. I think we'll have our players' attention.''

Izzo said he's not convinced senior forward Goran Suton can play against the Tar Heels since he didn't play in any of the three games at Disney due to a left knee sprain. Suton said Sunday he's hopeful he can go and practice prior to the Tar Heel game.

"He hasn't practiced in two weeks and he couldn't play [Sunday], so I can't see how he could play in a game like that,'' Izzo said.

Suton said it would crush him if he couldn't go.

"I want to play so bad, it's ridiculous,'' Suton said. "I've been looking forward to it all year. I want to play in front of the biggest crowd I've ever been in front of, and hopefully I'll be ready.''

This is a test run for April's Final Four at Ford Field. North Carolina expects to be there in April. Michigan State is hoping it can be there as well. But judging the Spartans simply off Wednesday night may not be fair after this week.

Final nuggets
• Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall challenged Michigan State on Sunday, and the Shockers nearly clipped Georgetown. They have a good, young nucleus. Marshall has his players' attention. The Shockers will likely lose a few games on the road, but don't sleep on this squad. They will upset a few folks in the Missouri Valley, and next season they could be a conference title contender.

• I'm not sure Maryland will want to schedule Georgetown after Sunday's beatdown. All the good vibes of the Michigan State win seemed to have been sucked out of the Terps on Sunday night. Maryland now must beat Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this week to save face after this drubbing. The Terps need to do more to ensure the MSU win matters in March.

• Siena essentially has to beat Kansas and Pitt or at least one of the two, or the Saints will definitely have to win the MAAC tournament to get a bid. Going 0-3 was not the plan coming down here.

• The 2009 Anaheim Classic field was announced: UCLA, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Clemson, Butler, Minnesota, Portland and Long Beach State.

• Seven of the eight 2009 Old Spice Classic teams were announced: Xavier, Michigan, Marquette, Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Iona and an eighth to be added that organizers are confident should make for an even more competitive field.

• Georgetown is going to win plenty of games this season. The Hoyas got better and better each day with Greg Monroe maturing, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman running the team well and DaJuan Summers emerging as a reliable threat. The Hoyas still have two monster nonconference games, hosting Memphis and at Duke (during the Big East season).

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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