top of page

Heel Tough Blog: Michigan State Preview (NCAA Tournament Second Round)

AP Photo

After dispatching Wagner on Thursday afternoon, the competition gets tougher, with Carolina seeking a berth in the Sweet 16, for the second time under Hubert Davis, when they face off against Michigan State later today. In the win over Wagner, R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot both scored 20 points or more and got help from Jae’Lyn Withers off the bench, posting a double-double in his first-ever NCAA Tournament game. They will need that same type of production replicated today, along with other players stepping up. 

Michigan State made their way to the Second Round, after blowing out Mississippi State to open the 2024 NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon. It was another win for Tom Izzo as the lower seed in an NCAA Tournament, something he’s made a habit of doing during his legendary career. If you remember, in the preseason, the Spartans were a preseason top 5 five, but they lost on the opening night of the season, to James Madison (a team that beat Wisconsin last night), and they truly played to their potential the rest of the regular season. The team that we saw blow out the Bulldogs on Thursday, had the look of a top 5 team in the country, They have four players that average double figures scoring, led by guard, Tyson Walker and his 18.2 points per game. 

Entering the tournament, many people believed that Michigan State was the better matchup for Carolina, and we all know that matchups play a role in who advances in this event, and who doesn’t. Not only does that matter, but history is also on Carolina’s side, as they are 5-0 all-time against the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State is 0-2 against #1 seeds in the Second Round, and Carolina has won 22 of their last 23 games against teams seeded #9 or worse. Today’s will be fun to watch, as both teams like to play in the open court, all while both being inside the top 7 according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive metric. 

After the win over Wagner, Hubert Davis made it known that while he was that his team advanced, there were areas where Carolina certainly could’ve played much better. Historically, the Second Round has always given Carolina a game in their championship runs, and that will be the case today, against a team that has the look and the feel of the team everyone thought they’d be in the preseason. Here’s how Carolina can continue their success against Sparty in the NCAA Tournament, and more importantly advance to the Sweet 16: 

  1. Outplay Their Backcourt: March is all about guard play, and Carolina needs their guards to play at as high a level as they’ve played at so far this season. Michigan State has three guards that averaged double figures scoring, led by the aforementioned Tyson Walker. His matchup against R.J. Davis will be one of the best matchups of the day and will play a role in who ultimately wins the game. At this point, it’s fair to expect Davis to play at a high level, but he needs help. Elliot Cadeau didn’t score on Thursday and was down on himself. He needs to play with confidence because Carolina is going to need him today. Cormac Ryan will need to be the guy that we saw at the end of the regular season and be a perimeter threat. Seth Trimble’s defense will be very important today, but he’ll need to score to give Carolina a lift off the bench. Whichever backcourt gets the most production, most likely wins the game. 

  2. Rebounding: Carolina is among the best teams in the country at rebounding the basketball, and that needs to show up today against a mediocre rebounding team in Michigan State. Carolina most likely won’t overwhelm Sparty on the glass like they did on Thursday against Wagner, but Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram need to impose their will. Jae’Lyn Withers posted a double-double on Thursday, and that type of production would much be appreciated today. If Carolina controls the glass, they control the tempo and wear down Michigan State the later the games along. 

  3. Win the Turnover Battle: Even though Michigan State blew out Mississippi State, they didn’t play a perfect game, as they committed their fair share of turnovers. Michigan State averages roughly 10 turnovers per game, and they average over 7 steals per game. We’ve seen Carolina struggle with turnovers at certain points in the season, but now is the time, when valuing the basketball is at an all-time high. UNC turned it over 9 times against Wagner, a healthy number that would put Carolina in position to win today. On the flip side, with how loose with the ball Michigan State was, Hubert Davis should opt to full-court press, and try to get them sped up. Whichever team wins the turnover battle, along with the rebounding, most likely wins the game. 

Series History:

  • Carolina is 12-4 against Michigan State, including 5-0 in the NCAA Tournament. This is the first NCAA Tournament game between the Tar Heels and Spartans since the 2009 national championship, which Carolina won, 89-72, in 2009. This is the sixth time UNC will play Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament. That will tie the third-most games for UNC against an opponent in its NCAA Tournament history.

UNC in Charlotte:

  • The Tar Heels are 167-27 all-time in Charlotte. That includes a 17-2 record in Spectrum Center from 2006-24. The Tar Heels are 13-1 in the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte (1-0 in 1975, 1-0 in 1982, 1-0 in 1984, 2-0 in 1987, 2-0 in 2005, 2-0 in 2008, 2-0 in 2011, 1-1 in 2018 and 1-0 in 2024). UNC is 35-2 in NCAA Tournament games in the state of North Carolina: 13-1 in Charlotte, 7-0 in Greensboro, 9-1 in Raleigh, and 6-0 in Winston-Salem.


  • North Carolina - 9th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.5 (18th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.3 (7th) 

  • Michigan State - 16th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.2 (49th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.1 (6th) 

TV Info:

  • Today’s game will start at 5:30 PM, and will be televised on CBS. 

The Four Corners Podcast:


bottom of page