Michigan State vs. North Carolina March Madness Preview and Prediction

In the No. 9 vs. No. 1 matchup in the NCAA Tournament West Region, the Michigan State Spartans face the North Carolina Tar Heels in second-round action.

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How to Watch Michigan State vs. North Carolina

When: 5:30 pm ET on Saturday, March 23rd

Where: Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina

Watch: CBS

Odds for Michigan State vs. North Carolina

(odds current at time of publish)

Spread: North Carolina -4

Total: 138.5

DraftKings Betting Splits | Live College Basketball Odds | Michigan State vs. North Carolina Matchup

West Region No. 9 Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State’s 20-14 record is obviously pretty disgusting, but this is a top-10 team when it comes to defensive efficiency and the rotation is filled with players with experience playing in March. Tyson Walker is still the point guard for the Spartans, and he’s a guy that has taken Michigan State deep in the tournament before. He’s a dangerous player on both ends of the floor, and A.J. Hoggard, Malik Hall and Jaden Akins are all familiar faces that can play. So, even though Michigan State has some issues offensively, and wasn’t all that reliable in close games, you can’t rule out another run. This is the NCAA tournament. Bet against Tom Izzo at your own risk. 

West Region No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels

The 2022-23 season was a rough one for the Tar Heels. After finishing as the runner-up in Hubert Davis’ first season, the team missed the tournament last year. North Carolina then lost Caleb Love to Arizona in the transfer portal, but the team added some talent in versatile forward Harrison Ingram and sharpshooter Cormac Ryan. Putting those two around Amando Bacot and RJ Davis, two members of the Carolina team that went to the finals, ended up being the magic sauce. This Tar Heels team can really get after it on the defensive end, where they’re top 10 in adjusted defensive rating no matter where you look. And North Carolina has the ability to keep up with anybody offensively.  

Michigan State vs. North Carolina Preview & Prediction

Three-point shooting was a concern for the Spartans heading into this tournament. Michigan State doesn’t shoot a poor percentage from deep, but only a few teams in college basketball shoot fewer 3s. But the 3-ball was instrumental in Michigan State’s 69-51 win over Mississippi State in the first round. The Spartans went 10 for 23 from deep, and they’ll need to shoot it well against the Tar Heels. However, it’d be surprising if Michigan State finds the mark two games in a row — especially against North Carolina’s defense.

This season, the Tar Heels are a top-10 team when it comes to adjusted defensive efficiency. And they’re a borderline top-40 team when it comes to 3P% defense. So, North Carolina’s ability to defend the 3-point line is a strength. And what should be really scary for the Spartans is the fact that the Tar Heels are a top-25 team when it comes to 2P% defense. Michigan State isn’t very efficient when it comes to scoring inside the 3-point line, but that’s where the Spartans look for most of their offense.

North Carolina is also going to be a tough team for Michigan State to cover. The Tar Heels have an absolute stud in RJ Davis. He can create good shots for himself whenever he wants, even against a Spartans team that works hard to defend the perimeter. And North Carolina also has a guy that can really space the floor, with Cormac Ryan being one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in college basketball. If Davis and Ryan have it going, Armando Bacot will feast around the basket. And Bacot might thoroughly dominate the offensive glass. The Spartans have been mediocre on the boards this season.

There’s just a lot working in North Carolina’s favor here. And while I’m high on Tyson Walker, he doesn’t have the help required to knock off a loaded Tar Heels team. With that in mind, Michigan State will look to play slow and really muck this game up. That could mean a somewhat low-scoring game. But North Carolina is capable of winning ugly. It also doesn’t help the Spartans that this game will be played in Charlotte. Michigan State fans travel very well, but this crowd should be flooded with Carolina blue.

Estimated Score: North Carolina 72.5 – Michigan State 69.1

For expert predictions, go to our college basketball best bets page.