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Spartans Face UNC In Quicken Loans Carrier Classic

MSU and UNC will square off on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

Nov. 9, 2011

Michigan State vs. #1/1 North Carolina
 Date Friday, Nov. 11
 Time 7 p.m. ET
 Location San Diego, Calif. | USS Carl Vinson
 Television ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Andy Katz)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Tickets Not Available
 Game Notes Michigan State | North Carolina
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

The Starting Five
1. For Openers

Michigan State is 90-22 all-time in openers, winning 33 of the last 34. In November 2005, MSU lost at Hawai'i, 84-62, to open the season. Prior to that, the Spartans' last loss in an opener came on Nov. 29, 1976, when they fell to Central Michigan, 81-76.

2. Special Meaning For A Spartan
The Quicken Loans Carrier Classic has a special meaning for Spartan red-shirt senior and co-captain Austin Thornton. Thornton's brother Thomas is Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. He is expected to attend the game and cheer on his brother and the Spartans. "My brother's got some crazy stories from his training and what not," Thornton told the Lansing State Journal. "And every time I think `Oh man, we got an early morning lift or practice went longer than we thought or a late night film session,' I think there's guys who are laying down their lives and sacrificing everything so that we can be a part of this great basketball game."

3. Origins Of The Carrier Classic
In 2003, Michigan State was playing in the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Fla., when the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was at that point that then-MSU senior associate AD Mark Hollis first started thinking of a way to honor the troops. During his time with the WAC, Hollis would take football teams playing in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego onto the carriers, and recognized first-hand the positives for both the troops and student-athletes. In December 2004, as MSU played in Washington D.C. for the BB&T Tournament, a small contingent of MSU personnel, including Hollis, met with U.S. Navy officers at the Pentagon. While various factors, including the state of affairs in our nation, prevented the dream from taking shape immediately, the process had begun. When Morale Entertainment got involved in 2010, the dream was eventually able to become a reality.

4. MSU Vs. Number One
Michigan State is 3-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25, although the Spartans have won two of their last four against No. 1. MSU defeated No. 1 Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA Championship game, No. 1 Wisconsin on Feb. 20, 2007 in East Lansing, and No. 1 Louisville in the 2009 NCAA Elite Eight.

5. New Faces
The Spartans will have a little bit of a different look in 2011-12. There are just two players on the 2011-12 roster (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season. Conversely, seven players on the roster have never played a minute for Michigan State (Russell Byrd, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice, Keenan Wetzel, Brandon Wood).

MSU Basketball Notes
Outside The Box

Being a part of a unique event is nothing new to Michigan State. On Oct. 6, 2001, MSU hosted Michigan in "The Cold War," the first college hockey game to be played outside in a football stadium. Since then, the tradition has been adopted by the NHL and college hockey teams across the country. On Dec. 13, 2003, MSU played Kentucky in "The BasketBowl" at Ford Field in Detroit in front of a then world-record crowd of 78,129, and still the largest crowd ever to watch a college basketball game. Five years later, when the Final Four was played in Detroit, the court was placed in the center of the football stadium rather than in a corner, as had previously been the case. Both the Cold War and BasketBowl were envisioned by current MSU athletics director Mark Hollis, who also provided the vision for the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

Izzo in Kuwait
One of the events that motivated Coach Izzo to play in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic was an experience he had visiting US military in Kuwait. In the summer of 2005, Izzo traveled to Kuwait to take part in "Operation Hardwood - Hoops With the Troops." Izzo was one of eight coaches and sports personalities coaching 13-member military basketball teams on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Camp Arifjan defeated the other bases to win the championship under the direction of Coach Izzo. One of the highlights of the trip was the military fatigues the coaches were presented (including name) prior to the championship game. The event was so moving for Izzo that he made a return trip in May 2006.

MSU In November
Michigan State has an all-time record of 90-26 in games played in the month of November. This includes a 63-3 mark at home. The last team to beat MSU at home in November was a David Robinson-led Navy squad that bested the Spartans, 91-90, in overtime on Nov. 29, 1986. Tom Izzo is 41-0 all-time at home in November.

Exhibition Recap
Michigan State won its two exhibition games against Ferris State (85-58) and Hillsdale (80-58) by an average margin of 24.5 points, averaging 82.5 points per contest. The Spartans were led by Draymond Green, who paced MSU in scoring (13.0 ppg) and ranked second in rebounding (7.5 rpg). Branden Dawson and Derrick Nix each averaged 12.5 ppg, as Dawson led the Spartans with 15 points and nine boards against Ferris State. Adreian Payne started the second exhibition vs. Hillsdale and posted a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Payne averaged a team-best 8.0 boards in the two games.

Toughest Start Ever
Michigan State will open the season with the toughest start in the nation. The Spartans open against North Carolina in the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11 in San Diego. The Tar Heels are a consensus preseason No. 1 pick. Four days later, MSU will face Duke in Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. The Blue Devils are a consensus preseason Top 10 squad. MSU is the first team to open the season against North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games since Wake Forest and North Carolina State did it in November 1976. Michigan State also has never opened a season with two games against ranked opponents.

Green Up For Senior CLASS Award
Draymond Green is one of 30 male candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The candidate poll will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the season.

Another Strong Non-Conference Schedule
While much of the attention is directed at back-to-back games vs. North Carolina and Duke, there is more meat to MSU's non-conference schedule. Other highlights include a Nov. 30 game vs. Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a top-three pick in the ACC, and a Dec. 10 trip to Gonzaga. In total, seven of MSU's 13 non-conference opponents appeared in the 2011 postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament. Including Big Ten foes, 15 Spartan opponents appeared in last year's postseason, including 11 in the NCAA Tournament.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 147 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (143), Connecticut (138), Kentucky (136) and Duke (132).

Draymond's Senior Campaign
Senior forward Draymond Green is a familiar face among all the new ones in the Michigan State lineup. A three-year captain, Green is on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 and the Naismith Award Watch list, and a preseason All-Big Ten selection by Lindy's Sports College Basketball and Sporting News College Basketball. Rated the No. 2 small forward in the nation by Lindy's, Green was one of just 10 players in the nation to lead his team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and assists (4.1 apg) last year. Named to Dick Vitale's All-Solid Gold Preseason All-America Fourth Team, he has tallied 18 career double-doubles, and is one of just three players in school history to record a triple-double, ranking second with two.

Looking For A Super Sophomore Year
Michigan State's second-most experienced player is sophomore guard Keith Appling, although he'll be taking on a little bit of a different role this year. Last season, Appling opened exclusively on the wing, but made the transition to back-up point midway through the conference schedule. That experience will come in handy as he'll open the season as MSU's starting point guard. As a freshman, Appling averaged 6.4 points and 1.3 assists, scoring in double figures on eight occasions.

MSU's Freshman Class
Michigan State welcomes in a three-member freshman scholarship class: Branden Dawson, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice. Dawson was a 2011 McDonald's All-American and a PARADE Magazine Third-Team All-American, averaging 28.7 points, 18.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a senior at Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind. Kearney was a 2011 Class A First-Team All-State honoree, averaging 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists at Detroit Southeastern High School. Trice was named the 2011 Gatorade Ohio Boys Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 23.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 3.3 rebounds at Wayne High School in Ohio.

An Experienced New Face
Although he has never played a minute for Michigan State, senior Brandon Wood brings a wealth of college basketball experience to the Spartan lineup. A two-time All-Horizon League performer at Valparaiso the last two seasons, Wood transfered to MSU in May after receiving his sports marketing and business degree. NCAA rules allow an institution to apply for a waiver to allow a student-athlete to transfer without sitting out a season, provided the student-athlete has earned a bachelor's degree, has eligibility remaining and is enrolling in a graduate-level program. In two seasons at Valpo, Wood scored 1,117 points, including averaging 17.7 ppg as a sophomore and 16.7 ppg as a junior. He's also performed at a high level against some of the nation's best teams, scoring 30 points vs. North Carolina, 24 vs. Michigan State and 21 vs. Purdue as a sophomore, followed by 20 vs. Purdue as a junior.

Same Name, Different Spellings
Among MSU's newcomers, three have the same first name, but it's spelled three different ways. Branden Dawson, Brandan Kearney and Brandon Wood each have a different second-to-last lettter in the first name. Pay close attention to eliminate typos.

Spartan Big Men
While Draymond Green gets a lot of attention in the Spartan frontcourt, he'll need his teammates to step up to make the unit strong. Sophomore center Adreian Payne and junior center Derrick Nix had strong summers and are both looking at breakout seasons this year. Payne suffered through a lingering shoulder injury for much of last season, but showed flashes of the skill set that led Coach Izzo to call him one of the most athletic big men he'd ever coached. His best game last season came against his home state Buckeyes, as he scored 10 points in 11 minutes at Ohio State (2/15). Nix dropped nearly 25 pounds and enters the season weighing 270. In addition to weight loss, Nix's body has undergone a transformation, allowing increased stamina on the court. In short stints last season, Nix showed excellent footwork and a strong array of post moves. In back-to-back games vs. Indiana (1/30) and Iowa (2/2), he averaged 10.5 points. Redshirt freshman Alex Gauna should also contribute to the Spartan frontcourt. The big forward adds the pick-and-pop threat to the offense.

U-S-A, U-S-A
Keith Appling and Draymond Green both benefitted from their experiences with USA Basketball over the summer. Green was a member of the World University Games team, averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, ranking second on the team in boards, and serving as a distributor from the forward position. Appling played with the FIBA U19 World Championship team, averaging 4.1 points and 10.3 minutes per contest, gaining some valuable experience at the point.

Big Ten Favorites
Michigan State was picked third by a panel of media in the 2011-12 Big Ten preseason poll. Ohio State and Wisconsin were picked to finish first and second, respectively. Draymond Green found a spot on the preseason all-conference team, joining Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Purdue's Robbie Hummel, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor.

In The Rankings
Six different Spartan opponents are ranked in at least one of the two polls, including North Carolina (1 AP/1 USA Today), Ohio State (3/3), Duke (6/6), Wisconsin (15/14), Michigan (18/18) and Gonzaga (23/23). MSU is receiving votes in both preseason polls.

It's All About Boardwork
After leading the nation in rebounding margin in both 2009 (+9.3) and 2010 (+8.6), Michigan State ranked 48th in the nation last season at +4.0. The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding margin in four of the last 12 seasons, ranking in the top 10 seven times and the top 25 on 10 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in 11 of the last 14 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 416 of 544 opponents (.765), posting a 328-88 (.788) mark in those games.

Green Approaches 1,000
Draymond Green has scored 916 career points, 84 points shy of becoming the 42nd player in MSU history to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career. With 702 rebounds, he also has a shot at becoming just the fourth player in MSU history with 1,000 career boards, and the third player with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, joining Greg Kelser and Johnny Green. Given that the Spartans play 31 regular season games, at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament and possibly at least postseason game, Green would need to average 9.03 rebounds to reach 1,000 for his career.

MSU vs. North Carolina Notes
Coach Williams

Roy Williams (North Carolina, '72) is 643-163 in his 24th season as a collegiate head coach, including 225-62 in eight seasons at North Carolina. Williams has the highest winning percentage (.798) of any active head coaching, ranking fourth all-time.

Series History
North Carolina leads the all-time series, 10-3, including a 7-1 edge in neutral site contests. The Tar Heels have won the last five games in the series as three of the last five games have been in the NCAA Tournament.

The Last Meeting
North Carolina defeated Michigan State, 89-82, on Dec. 1, 2009, in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels used a 9-0 run to break a 21-21 tie and surge to a 50-34 halftime advantage. UNC led by as many as 19 early in the second half, but MSU kept fighting and cut the deficit to six points with possession of the ball and less than 90 seconds left, but couldn't creep any closer. Raymar Morgan led MSU with 18 points, while UNC's Ed Davis led all scorers with 22 points. The Spartans return three players (Green, Nix and Thornton) who played in the game, totaling 13 points and 33 minutes, while the Tar Heels have five players (Strickland, McDonald, Watts, Henson, Zeller) who totaled 17 points and 48 minutes.

About North Carolina
North Carolina returns five starters and its top eight scorers from a team that won the ACC regular-season title and posted a 29-8 record, advancing to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament ... Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes is a preseason first-team All-America selection by the Sporting News, while senior center Tyler Zeller is a preseason second-team All-American ... Junior forward John Henson has blocked 178 shots through his first two seasons, the previous mark for a Tar Heel through his sophomore season was Rasheed Wallace with 156 ... Sophomore guard Kendall Marshall became just the second Tar Heel freshman to ever lead the ACC in assists.



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