Tomorrow night Michigan hosts NC State in one of the most fascinating games so far this year. It is one of the feature match-ups in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Both teams are loaded with talent and are ranked in the top 20 (Michigan is 3rd and NC State is 18th).
There are a bunch of interesting storylines running through this game, most notable the presence of fantastic freshmen. NC State’s freshman class is ranked fourth by Rivals, with Michigan just behind them at seventh.
For NC State, Rodney Purvis and TJ Warren lead the class. They are averaging 15 and 11 points respectively, through just five games. Both freshmen have transformed this team, giving them great talent. They are just two of six players averaging double digits in scoring, representing terrific depth. The six man Wolfpack have had some trouble early on, getting upset by Oklahoma State and barely beating UNC Asheville in their last game. The team might be struggling, but they have plenty of talent to upset Michigan.
Michigan has their own impressive freshmen in Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. McGary is full of raw talent, and endless energy. I hate the phrase “high motor guy”, but if there ever was one, it is McGary. Stauskas is an overqualified sharpshooter, who has shown his athleticism and ball handling skills early. Robinson, the most talented of the trio is headed for the NBA eventually. He has a great body, and a strong offensive game.
These five freshmen are fantastic and exciting, but they are not even the best players in this game. For Michigan, All-American Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. lead the way. Burke is as quick and aggressive offensively as any point guard in the country. Hardaway, after struggling last season, has been phenomenal so far. He was awarded the MVP award for the NIT Season Tipoff, after thrashing through Madison Square Garden.
For NC State, CJ Leslie leads the way. The 6-9 forward is a double-double threat every night. Leslie’s foul trouble against Oklahoma State was a key reason for their downfall. He is so important to his team, if he plays well against Michigan, NC State has a good chance to win.
If there was just one reason for watching this game, it would be the tremendous talent. There is at least a handful of players with NBA potential. For Michigan, Burke, Hardaway and Robinson all appear to have pro futures. For NC State Leslie, Purvis, Lorenzo Brown and Warren have pro futures. Whichever team’s freshmen play better will likely win, considering how big of an impact these freshmen have on both teams. There will be plenty of scouts in Crisler Arena Tuesday night, and there should be some great basketball for them to take in.