North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Michigan State Spartans (+10.5, 134.5)
THE STORY: In a game dubbed the “Carrier Classic,” top-ranked North Carolina will square off against Michigan State outdoors on an aircraft carrier docked in the Naval Harbor in San Diego. President Obama is scheduled to attend the game, along with many active duty military in a celebration of Veteran’s Day. Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller lead a loaded Tar Heels team that is expected to compete for both the ACC crown and national championship. Michigan State lost three key players from a disappointing 2010-11 team that was ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the Spartans are still picked by the coaches to finish third in the Big Ten.
North Carolina is 10-3 all-time against Michigan State and has won five straight meetings.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ODDS: Las Vegas Sports Consultants expected North Carolina to be set at -9 or -9.5, but most books sent out North Carolina -10.5 late Thursday evening. Meanwhile, setting the total seems to be more of a concern for the books.
"Offense could be a problem for both teams," John Avello, sportsbook director at the Wynn, told Covers.com Thursday evening. "Shooters usually have a difficult time when their backgrounds are changed - it doesn't matter if we're talking about an NFL stadium or an aircraft carrier."
WEATHER: The forecast for San Diego is calling for temperatures in the mid 60s with a humidity index of 50 percent. There will be a slight breeze, blowing south at 8 mph. There is a 20 percent chance of rain during the day with a 70 percent chance of showers later in the evening.
"I think it's going to be a memory-making experience in a lot of ways," MSU head coach Tom Izzo told the Detroit Free Press. "I don't know what's going to happen when we get there. I don't know about the wind. I don't know about rain. I don't know about anything. I don't really care, to be honest with you. I just want to play the game, and hopefully it's as good an event as it can be because of our military, because of the reason the game is being played.
"The game itself is more for us. But the reason is more for them."
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (2010: 29-8, 14-2 ACC, 16-17-1 ATS): Roy Williams has won two national titles in his eight years at North Carolina, but many are calling this his most talented roster yet. Barnes — who surprised many by not entering the NBA Draft after a stellar freshman campaign — is a preseason All-American, and Zeller is one of the country’s most polished big men. Lanky power forward John Henson was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, and sophomore Kendall Marshall is Williams’ ideal point guard — fast with the ball and possessing excellent court vision.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (2010: 19-15, 9-9 Big Ten, 11-21-1 ATS): Senior forward Draymond Green headlines a talented and experienced frontcourt for the Spartans, who had one of their worst seasons in recent memory in 2010-11. But questions remain in the backcourt, where Michigan State lost do-everything point guard Kalin Lucas. Sophomore Keith Appling is a combo guard that could provide scoring, while newcomers Travis Trice and Brandon Wood — a transfer from Valparaiso — will audition for the point.
1. San Diego weather is normally perfect, but the forecast does call for some rain over the weekend.
2. North Carolina has won 76 of its last 81 season-openers, including six in a row.
3. The teams will also wear special camouflage uniforms to honor the troops.
• Favorite is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
• Spartans are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings.
• Spartans are 1-5 ATS in their last six neutral site games.
• Tar Heels are 7-2 ATS in their last nine vs. Big Ten.