MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (1-1)
vs. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (3-0)
Maui Invitational First Round – Maui, HI
Tip-off: Monday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: North Carolina -18, Total: 141
Maui Invitational favorite No. 11 North Carolina opens its tournament against Mississippi State on Monday night.
Both teams are in a transitional year. The Tar Heels are replacing their top four players, while MSU lost its top five and its head coach. Carolina already has one solid win, going on the road to beat Long Beach State on Friday, while the Bulldogs rebounded from a loss at Troy to beat Florida Atlantic at home.
Can Carolina start its week in Hawaii by covering a big spread? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. This season, the experts are a collective 35-33-2 ATS (51%) on Best Bets. StatFox Gary is 8-2 ATS in the past six days and 67% (10-5 ATS) Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave went 3-1 ATS on weekend Best Bets and StatFox Brian is at 53% (9-8-1) Best Bets for the season.
After their top four players all went in the NBA Draft’s first round last June, the Tar Heels are now PF James Michael McAdoo’s team. The sophomore is averaging 21.0 PPG and 11.3 RPG in the season’s early going. Complementing McAdoo, they have SG Reggie Bullock as an outside threat; he’s shooting 52% FG and 44% 3-pt FG while scoring 10.0 PPG. Carolina has promising freshman PG Marcus Paige (7.7 PPG, 3.3 APG) and veteran defensive stopper Dexter Strickland (7.0 PPG, 4.0 APG) manning the backcourt. Paige had 15 points and four assists in the Long Beach win.
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury retired during the offseason and left the cupboard bare for new coach Ricky Ray. Top returning player SG Jalen Steele is out with a broken wrist. So far the Bulldogs have had a balanced attack, with JUCO transfer PG Trivante Bloodman and a couple of freshmen, SG Fred Thomas and PF Gavin Ware, averaging 10.0 PPG each. Sophomore SF Roquez Johnson, seldom used a year ago, came off the bench to score 17 (despite shooting 3-for-10 FT) in MSU's win over Florida Atlantic last Tuesday. Thomas had 16 points and five steals in that win. The Bulldogs have hit only eight three-pointers on the season so far, shooting 31% from behind the arc. That includes an ugly 4-for-16 shooting night in their 56-53 season opening loss at Troy.