Maui Invitational: North Carolina vs. Mississippi State Preview

Brian Spurlock-US Presswire

North Carolina will face Mississippi State in the opening round of the Maui Invitational tonight at 6:00pm EST.

Roy Williams and the Tar Heels enter the tournament at 3-0 with 3 pretty easy wins.  On the other hand, Rick Ray and the Bulldogs enter at a 1-1 record.

Both teams will be going deep into the bench and could possibly play double digit players, but for different reasons.  The young and talented Heels have one of the deepest benches in the country.  From their best players to their 5th player off the bench, the Heels can compete.

Mississippi State will be going deep into their bench not for talent, but just for people to fill in for all their injuries.  The Bulldogs are extremely banged up heading into Maui and their lack of production off the bench will certainly hurt their chances to do well in this tournament.

Roy Williams expects to play 10, 11, and maybe even 12 players in the first half.  With the talents of Joel James, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Leslie McDonald, Jackson Simmons, P.J. Hairston and Luke Davis, why wouldn’t you empty the bench?  Having multiple options coming off the bench that can replace your starters effectively is one of the biggest advantages you can have.

Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo will look to continue his success in Hawai’i.  The young star is averaging 21 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game to lead the Tar Heels.  McAdoo has stepped up big time for his team and will look to continue to do so in Maui.

Mississippi State will be without four key contributors for this contest.  Freshmen guards, Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite are both out for the season after both tore their ACL in the preseason.

Junior guard, Jalen Steele who is one of the Bulldogs best players will be out for an extended period of time after he fractured his wrist in the teams lone win.

Colin Borchert is the final bulldog who is unable to play tonight.  He violated team rules and has been suspended as a result.

With 4 players out, Miss. St. is left with only 6 scholarship players.  Coach Ray is looking for a player to step up and take advantage of the spotlight.  He doesn’t want to make excuses, he wants to use his lack of depth as an advantage in Maui.

Coach Ray will still play at Carolina’s fast pace today even though he has limited players.  This obviously favors the Tar Heels and could potentially lead to Carolina just running the Bulldogs out of the gym.

The winner of this opening round game will play the winner of the Marquette-Butler opening round game, while the losers will also match up.

 

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