We’ve been waiting to hear (1) who MSU would play in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge next season and (2) whether they’d play a nonconference game at Ford Field. Today, both questions we’re answered: They’ll play North Carolina at Ford Field on Wednesday, December 3, as part of the challenge. The full list of match-ups can be found here.
The other obvious marquee match-up is Duke-Purdue in West Lafayette, a match-up that would have occurred in this year’s NCAA Tournament if both teams had won one more game. The Washington Times manages to find an angle to connect the two teams in each of the 11 match-ups (NC State, MSU’s challenge opponent this past season is the odd ACC team out).
Ford Field is the site of the Final Four next year, so both MSU and UNC will be hoping to use the game to gain experience playing there in hopes of returning four months later. Whether North Carolina is in a position for a repeat Final Four run will hinge to a large extent on whether Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and/or Wayne Ellington decide to declare for the NBA draft. At the moment, it appears they odds may tilt slightly toward all three staying, as none are projected as definite lottery picks. If the trio does remain, North Carolina will be the consensus #1 team in the country going into next season.
The Spartans and Tar Heels have played each other twice previously in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. MSU prevailed 86-76 in Chapel Hill in 1999 and won by a score of 77-64 in East Lansing in 2000. You’ll recall that the 1999 game is the one in which Morris Peterson scored 31 points to lead MSU to victory in the absence of an injured Mateen Cleaves. MSU turned it over 17 times in 72 possessions (23.6%), but pulled down 20 of 39 offensive rebounding opportunities (51.3%).
At 5-3, MSU is the only Big Ten team with a winning record in the nine-year history of the challenge. Surprisingly, UNC is just 4-5 all-time in the challenge.
It will be interesting to see whether they use the court-in-the-center-of-the-field arrangement at Ford Field to mirror the seating arrangement for the Final Four or if they move the court to one side to improve viewing angles, given that a sellout seems unlikely. The Lions play home games the previous Thursday (Nov. 27) and the following Saturday (Dec. 7), so it will be a busy week and a half of logistical changes inside the stadiums.
With the announcement of this game, MSU is now slated to play at least three of this year’s Elite Eight teams (UNC, Texas in Houston or Dallas, Kansas at Breslin). That number could conceivably grow to four, as Memphis may still participate in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
Update: The seating configuration hasn’t been determined yet.