Preview: UNC vs. Kentucky
And so it goes again. In what has become an annual showdown of two of the winningest NCAA men’s basketball programs, the Heels face-off against Big Blue on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The good news, Carolina returns home after looking frazzled during their first true road game against Illinois earlier this week. The bad news, Kentucky has been gelling a lot faster as a team than UNC has in the early season even after having to make up for the lose of some of the nation’s best players last year. This is of course a John Calipari coached team, which, no matter what your opinion of the coach, are always chocked full of talent and come to play.
UK won last year’s battle in Lexington by two. UNC was led by Deon Thompson with 14 points and actually battled back from a 19 point deficit early in the game. Like we mentioned earlier, UNC will definitely benefit from playing at home. The Heels are 4-2 at home against the ‘Cats and have won three consecutive games. The Heels will be facing Evansville and Long Beach State after UK, but the young Heels can gain a lot of confidence with a win that they can take into their upcoming game against Texas.
- The Wildcats only return one starter – Darius Miller – from last year’s game, but that point is moot. The scariest players on UK’s roster are freshmen. Brandon Knight has taken over where John Wall left off at point guard. Knight is la better shooter than Wall and is averaging 17.3 ppg and has topped 20 in two of the last three. Forward Terrence Jones (right) is even more impressive. The 6’8″ forward is leading the team in points, 20.7 ppg, and rebounds, 10.2 rpg besides just looking like he’s going to yam all over you. Guard Doron Lamb is no joke either.
- Some more good news, as good as the freshmen have been, they have suffered through some of the same growing pains as the Heels. While Kentucky very good in Maui against Oklahoma and a ranked Washington squad, a more experienced Connecticut team made the ‘Cats look like pussies kittens.
- A major point of concern going into the season was the lack of depth in the fron court, but again the Heels are actually favored in this category. The loss of Enes Kanter to eligibility questions leave Kentucky with only two players over 6’8″ on the roster. Combined these two only average 8.5 ppg. One of these bigs, Josh Harrellson, starts and plays about 24 minutes a game but has yet to register a free throw attempt – not what you call a bruiser. Illinois also had soft bigs and when Zeller and Henson got the ball down low they did well to exploit that.
- Calipari is a skeez.
These two teams have only a two point differential of points scored per game (UNC 77.1, UK 79.2), but the Wildcats are only committing 11.8 turnovers to the Heels’ 16.6. Kentucky is uber-athletic, but this game is going to come down to who takes care of the ball and balls above their age. UNC has had trouble getting their offense and break clicking and they can’t afford to do so Saturday.
(Bold) Prediction: UNC 86, UK 81