Michigan State had been perfect through seven games to start the college basketball season. Since their November 12th win over then #1 Kentucky, the Spartans slipped into the top spot and have had a few easy games come their way. That all changed on Wednesday night when the North Carolina Tar Heels came to town.
Tied at halftime, the Tar Heels, who never played from behind in this game, would outscore the Spartans 47-33 in the second half for a 79-65 victory. Freshman Kennedy Meeks scored 15-points and added seven rebounds. Sophomore Brice Johnson added 14-points and Marcus Paige and Nate Britt both added 13. This was a good overall team effort from a Tar Heels team that beats the number-one team in the nation for the first time since 2006, when they beat Duke. What may have been even more encouraging for the Tar Heels moving forward is that PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald had to sit due to eligibility concerns. Hairston is a junior for this squad that has been a leader during his time playing for UNC, so to get a win without him is huge.
As for the Spartans, they played bad throughout the game. They started out slow, allowing the Tar Heels to score the first six points of the game and at one time they had a 16-4 lead. And while they were able to outscore the Tar Heels 13-2 in the closing moments of the first half, they got cold again while in the locker room at halftime and didn’t come out with the energy and charge that they needed in front of their home crowd.
It’s likely that after the loss, the Spartans will drop from the top spot in the nation. It makes sense that the Arizona Wildcats, who are currently at number two, will go into the number-one spot with a 7-0 record. And while a handful of other teams, including Syracuse, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Connecticut are all undefeated, considering Kentucky is ahead of all of those teams, it’ll be interesting to see if the Spartans fall that low considering they already beat Kentucky earlier in the season.
As for the Tar Heels, they were on the cusp of getting into the top-25 this past week. They had 65 votes, while #25 Dayton had 90. But with their win on Wednesday, and a win just two games ago against #3 Louisville, it’s likely the Tar Heels will make their way into polls for the first time this season. And if it wasn’t for surprising loses to Belmont and UAB, UNC could’ve been in the conversation for one of the best teams in the league.