CORONADO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: The North Carolina Tar Heels play against the Michigan State Spartans during the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on board the USS Carl Vinson on November 11, 2011 in Coronado, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Last night's Carrier Classic was an absolute spectacle, intriguing for everyone ranging from nutty fans to those that simply enjoy a well-produced live event.
In lieu of simple game recaps (who actually reads those?) we'll be giving you "Five Takeaways" throughout the season to offer our commentary on the most important and enjoyable games from November to April. Naturally, we start with the Spartans vs. Heels, from the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
1. This game counted, it was not an exhibition. Given this season's projected arc of North Carolina and Michigan State, this particular game will probably not have any major bearing on NCAA Tournament seeding...but can you imagine if it did:
Selection Committee Member A: "OK let's see, Michigan State. Decent conference record, 5-5 against the RPI top 50. /scans Spartans resume. Whoa, look at this non-conference schedule. Great stuff."
Selection Committee Member B: "I agree, their non-conference strength of schedule was far better than [INSERT TEAM]. Remember, they opened with UNC and Duke, and played Florida State and Gonzaga."
Selection Committee Member C: "Guys, that game against UNC was played on a frieken AIRCRAFT CARRIER. That's a boat. It was outdoors, and they wore these!" /flips laptop around to show everyone monochrome army fatigue jerseys. "It should be thrown out of the discussion."
Selection Committee Member A: "Yeah that was some stuff. Unprecedented really. Let's just pretend that UNC game didn't happen."
You see? Wild. Take a step back and realize how unique this event was.
2. This was the most neutral of courts. Playing early season non-conference games on neutral courts are just the best, no? We all love those marquee match-ups at Madison Square Garden, or games between two schools located in a true college town that meet for a made-for-TV game in a major city. For this, the Carrier Classic, a new bar was set. There were no wild student sections, no geographic advantage. The lighting was weird, and a light breeze made it appear like an outdoor pick-up game at times. Both teams even had problems with those stickers on the court. No team had a leg up.
3. The 30 minute pre game build up was unexpected. Aside from the National Championship game, I cannot recall any sort of pre-game build up as long and enjoyable as last night's presentation. The men and women in attendance were honored, ESPN spent ample time showing us some neat looking vantage points, and President Obama spoke. It felt nice for college basketball to take center stage in the sports world so early in the season.
4. Michigan state’s backcourt is in trouble. I know it was his first ever college game, but Travis Trice has a ways to go before he can be called a reliable backup point guard. Going 1-8 from the field that included a number of errant shots, Trice didn't deserve the 20 minutes of court time he saw last night. Starters Brandon Wood and Keith Appling didn't contribute much either, as Appling committed four turnovers, went 2-7 from the floor, and fouled out. Draymond Green may have had 18 rebounds, that was cool, but he can't do that every night.
Harrison Barnes will probably have a fantastic season. Right from the tip Barnes flashed his offensive capabilities, converting on a pair of mid range jumpers so few in the college game even bother to practice. He finished with a game high 17 points, and it didn't even seem that difficult. A well spoken intelligent kid, Barnes is "more relaxed in conversation with reporters as well as folks in the athletic department," according to Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis. He's growing up, and appears to have accepted the hype we've all placed on him.