Michigan State hopes to be playing on the court at Ford Field next year when the Final Four comes to Detroit, but they will be getting a test run at the home of the Lions earlier in the season.
On Dec. 3, the Spartans will face North Carolina in the 10th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge in one of the prime games of the 2008 installment of the event.
The Tar Heels are fresh off a Final Four appearance in San Antonio and despite their loss to Kansas in the national semifinal, the Heels finished the season 36-3 with an ACC regular season and tournament title.
The Tar Heels could return their top eight scorers and all five starters from last year’s squad, including National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough.
Both teams will be highly ranked in the pre-season polls to start the year and when they meet in December, it will be yet another big non-conference game for both teams.
This will be Michigan State’s second game at Ford Field, having previously played Kentucky at "The BasketBowl" on Dec. 13, 2003.
After hosting one of this year’s regional sites in the NCAA Tournament, officials will have one last test on the elevated court before the Final Four comes to Motown.
"I am thrilled to have another opportunity to play at Ford Field," said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. "‘The BasketBowl’ was a great experience for everyone involved and this is sure to be another memory maker. Add a North Carolina team that could potentially be the No. 1 team in the nation and you have a contest that could be one of the most talked-about games of the college basketball season.”
UNC won the last meeting with the Spartans, an 81-67 victory in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, and lead the all-time series as well 7-3.
But Michigan State holds a 2-0 advantage against the Heels’ in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, beating them in 1999 in the inaugural challenge 86-76 in Chapel Hill. The very next year, UNC visited the Breslin Center but saw the same outcome, losing 77-64.
MSU is 5-3 all-time in the challenge, with wins over Virginia in 2002, Georgia Tech in 2005, and North Carolina State last year at the Breslin Center.
After their back-to-back wins over the Heels in the first two challenges, MSU went on to lose the next two at the hands of Duke, in 2003 in East Lansing and then 2004 in Durham.
Since 2000, the Big Ten and ACC have combined to make 15 Final Four appearances and captured four of the last nine NCAA Championships.
But while both conferences have their strengths, the ACC has had an overwhelming advantage in the challenge the past few years.
The ACC has won the overall series in every year since its inception, but MSU represents the Big Ten conference as the only school with a winning record.
2008 ACC/Big Ten Matchups:
Monday, Dec. 1: Wisconsin at Virginia Tech
Tuesday, Dec. 2: Duke at Purdue,
Clemson at Illinois,
Ohio State at Miami,
Virginia at Minnesota,
Iowa at Boston College
Wednesday, Dec. 3: North Carolina vs. Michigan State (from Ford Field),
Indiana at Wake Forest,
Michigan at Maryland,
Florida State at Northwestern,
Penn State at Georgia Tech