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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Playing outdoors will be adjustment for Carrier Classic players

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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SAN DIEGO — If gusts of ocean breeze alter the trajectory of outside shots in Friday evening's Carrier Classic, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo sees a silver lining for his team.

"My guys haven't shot real well in the exhibition season," Izzo said. "I told them to shoot the exact same way and the wind will blow it in."

An unfamiliar shooting backdrop, the threat of rain and potentially blustery conditions are all elements North Carolina and Michigan State will have to adjust to when they play the first ever college basketball game on an aircraft carrier. Organizers have built a second court in the USS Carl Vinson's flight hangar in case of rain, but they were confident as of Thursday afternoon that stormy weather would hold off long enough to allow the teams to play outdoors on the flight deck.

Although North Carolina's Dexter Strickland and Michigan State's Brandon Wood said they've both played enough pick-up ball on outdoor courts not to be thrown off by Friday's conditions, several of their teammates appeared less confident.

Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall last played an organized game outdoors when he was 14 years old. Teammate Tyler Zeller participated in his last outdoor game was when he was a sixth or seventh grader. And believe it or not, neither North Carolina's Harrison Barnes nor Michigan State's Keith Appling can recall ever playing outside the cozy confines of a gym besides occasionally messing around with friends when they were kids.

"I think we're all worried about it a little bit, but the reality is we don't have any say whether we're inside or outside," Zeller said. "We just have to play to the best of our ability."

For Barnes, the biggest concern about the elements wasn't his perimeter shooting. Even though the ship was docked, which seemingly would render seasickness to be a non-issue, Barnes complained of slight lightheadedness after Thursday's shootaround. {YSP:MORE}

"I got a little bit dizzy out there today," Barnes said. "It didn't look like it but you can just feel it. Hopefully it won't be too bad tomorrow."

It might seem as though the players are overselling the adjustment they must make, but even NBA teams have struggled when playing outdoors. Frigid temperatures and howling winds contributed to sub-40 percent shooting and an ugly 77-72 score when the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns played an exhibition game against one-another in 2008 at Indian Wells Tennis Center near Palm Springs, Calif.

Even if the elements do make things difficult on perimeter shooters, Marshall said both teams are mentally tough enough not to let it frustrate them.

Said Marshall, "It will take some adjusting, but both teams will have to deal with it."

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