Tyler Hansbrough scored the first basket of both halves and finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Tar Heels to a 98-63 rout of Michigan State (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) on Wednesday night.
The Tar Heels (8-0) took control with an 11-3 run late in the first half, led by 14 at halftime, then built a 30-plus cushion at the home of the Detroit Lions and the 2009 Final Four.
Barring injuries or an upset, the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll seems destined for a return trip to the Motor City.
The Spartans (4-2) started the season ranked sixth, but lost a lot of luster with an 18-point loss to Maryland last week.
They scored in the final seconds, narrowly avoiding the most-lopsided defeat of Tom Izzo's career. Iowa beat Michigan State by 36 in 1996 during Izzo's first season.
Michigan State's Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen looked like they belonged on the same court with the Tar Heels, scoring 17 and 13 points respectively, but the rest of their teammates appeared overmatched.
The Tar Heels were simply too talented, quick, strong and deep.
They didn't play any of their starters 30 minutes, showing mercy in a game that could've been more of a rout.
The NFL venue was configured for about 70,000 seats and perhaps one-third of them were filled with fans, creating a scene that was as lackluster as the game.
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and one of his key players, former Tar Heel Rasheed Wallace, were among the faces in the crowd.
Hansbrough played for just the fourth time in eight games, but the national player of the year looked sharp in 27 minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward missed the Tar Heels' first two games with a stress reaction in his right shin, didn't play against Chaminade in the Maui Invitation and sat out Sunday's game against UNC-Asheville for precautionary reasons.
Those are the only games the senior has missed in his career.
Michigan State was without its top frontcourt player, Goran Suton, and will miss him for at least two more weeks because he's scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his sprained left knee Thursday. <!-- STORY AD BEGINS HERE -->