2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic: Player Matchup Preview

Michigan State University Vs. The University of North CarolinaAs a true basketball enthusiast, I understand the importance of individual matchups through the course of a game.  Thus, I have listed, compared, and contrasted the players for UNC and MSU to arrive at a calculated prediction for the winner of the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

( * This prediction is my own and does not reflect the views of Quicken Loans or its team members. )


Starting Power Forwards

Draymond Green (MSU) vs. John Henson (UNC)

Profile: Draymond Green (#23)     6’7”         235 lbs.       Forward        (Senior)

  • Draymond has a unique skillset for a collegiate center.  The height he lacks (at the forward position) is more than made up with power and bulk.  San Antonio Spurs Center DeJuan Blair has a similar size and game as Green.  Both are 6’7” (undersized centers) and have relentless motors.

Profile: John Henson (#31)            6’11”               220 lbs.     Forward     (Junior)

  • John is a lanky shot blocker with an ambidextrous post-up game that allows him to finish with the left and right hand effectively around the basket. His skillset and length will translate nicely in the NBA.

Prediction: While John Henson will be taken higher in the NBA Draft, Draymond Green is the better leader and scorer on the collegiate level.  I predict Draymond Green will have a better scoring and total impact in the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

Starting Point Guards

Keith Appling (MSU) vs. Kendall Marshall (UNC)

Profile: Keith Appling (#11)          6’1”          180 lbs.      Guard          (Sophomore)

  • Keith (Michigan’s Mr. Basketball 2010) possesses great long range shooting ability and seems to have an internal GPS on the basket as, his 95 made three-pointers out of 165 three-point attempts last season serves as evidence.  His speed, athleticism, and youth makes Keith a future NBA prospect.

Profile:  Kendall Marshall (#5)       6’4”      195 lbs.         Guard          (Sophomore)

  • Kendall became a star last season when coach Roy Williams inserted him into the starting lineup in January for a struggling Larry Drew.  Marshall’s leadership helped UNC obtain a number 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, where Carolina finally began to play to the standard of its preseason projections.

Prediction:  There was a significant difference between the Tar Heels backcourt with Marshall running the point compared to Larry Drew running the team.  Kendall proved to be the missing link to the Tar Heels success last season as his court vision and unselfishness helped UNC make it to the Final Four.  While Keith may be the more appealing NBA prospect, I predict Kendall Marshall will have a more successful 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

Starting Centers

Derrick Nix (MSU) vs. Tyler Zeller (UNC)

Profile:  Derrick Nix (#25)         6’9”               278 lbs.         Center                 (Junior)

  • Derrick is the 9th Mr. Basketball to attend MSU.  He is very skilled at scoring around the basket and has exceptional quickness and size.

Profile:  Tyler Zeller (#44)          7’0”             250 lbs.           Forward             (Senior)

  • Tyler was the leading scorer on UNC’s roster last season.   He is a Capital One Academic All-America First team selection, and his 7-foot frame (without shoes) clears significant space for the pick and roll shooter. 

Prediction:  While Derrick has the weight advantage between these two centers, he also has the quickness advantage.  Tyler Zeller is the better shot blocker and rebounder, however Derrick may be the better overall defender.  Tyler Zeller’s offensive game translates better to the NBA than Derrick’s.  Accordingly, I predict (statistically) Tyler Zeller will have a more successful 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

Starting Shooting Guards

Brandon Wood (MSU) vs. Dexter Strickland (UNC)

Profile: Brandon Wood (#30)            6’2”             190 lbs.           Guard           (Senior)

  • Brandon graduated from Valparaiso this year and will complete his final year of eligibility at MSU.  He possesses great toughness and his ability to defend multiple positions makes him extremely versatile.  He is a savvy scorer who picks his shooting spots with great accuracy. 

Profile: Dexter Strickland (#1)        6’3”      180 lbs.         Guard          (Junior)

  • Dexter is a returning starter to UNC (ranked preseason #1) and combines pure athleticism with uncanny scoring ability to provide firepower to an already potent offense. 

Prediction:  Dexter’s speed and athleticism is a good fit for the high tempo offense of North Carolina however, with so many talented NBA prospects on the Tar Heels, Dexter rarely has the ball to show how gifted he is.  Brandon is a mature player who knows how to contribute to an offense without dominating the ball.  His ability to score from high percentage spots on the floor will translate to him scoring more for the Spartans without specific plays being drawn up for him.  I predict the maturity of Brandon will allow him to have a better statistical 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

Starting Small Forward

Branden Dawson (MSU) vs. Harrison Barnes (UNC)

Profile:  Branden Dawson (#22)        6’6”       216 lbs.         Guard      (Freshman)

  • Branden is a tall wingman with a tremendous work ethic.  He is a volume scorer (average 23 ppg in high school) with a silky smooth stroke from long distance.

Profile:  Harrison Barnes (#40)           6’8”      215 lbs.     Forward     (Sophomore)

  • Harrison is a highly skilled wingman capable of taking and making the game winning shot and his game-winning 3 pointer against Florida State last season serves as proof.  He will be the first player from the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic drafted into the NBA next season and most likely the number 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Prediction:  Harrison would have been the number one pick in the NBA draft last season if he decided not to come back to North Carolina.  His talent level is once-in-a-generation and he is NBA ready right now.  Branden is only one year younger than Harrison, yet, his inexperience will be in the national spotlight as he tries to defend the best player in the NCAA this season.  I predict Harrison Barnes will be the highest scorer in the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic as well as the focal player to watch.

Head Coaches:

Tom Izzo (MSU) vs. Roy Williams (UNC)

MSU Coach: Tom Izzo

  • As the head coach of the Michigan State University men’s basketball team, Tom Izzo has reached the Final Four an astounding 6 times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010), taking home the NCAA National Championship in 2000.  He has coached countless athletes who later became NBA players and has a devoted following at Michigan State University, where the student section at basketball games has been renamed The IZZONE.

UNC Coach: Roy Williams

  • As the Admiral of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, Roy Williams has earned his stripes by taking home the NCAA National Championship in 2005 and 2009 where his UNC Tar Heels defeated the MSU Spartans.  He has coached countless athletes who later became NBA players and has reached the final four seven times (1991, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009).

Prediction:  I predict that the coaches in the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic will be far less important than the players.  With the event being held on an aircraft carrier (the USS Carl Vinson) and the addition of sunlight and wind, there are so many unique attributes about the venue, the game will come down to which players can focus the most.  With three potential first found picks on the UNC Tar Heels, I predict the final score of the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic will be:


UNC 81 – MSU 70

( * This prediction is my own and does not reflect the views of Quicken Loans or it’s team members. )

About Jon Slappey

Jon is a sports enthusiast with a passion for journalism.

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2 Responses to 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic: Player Matchup Preview

  1. ESH November 8, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Henson and Strickland are both juniors.

    • apallay November 8, 2011 at 3:38 am #

      Good catch, ESH. I’ve updated the article and let the author know. Thanks!


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