North Carolina vs. Kentucky: 5 Elements to Watch
5 Elements to Look for
North Carolina and Kentucky are two of the most prestigious NCAA basketball schools ever and Saturday marks another chance for these teams to battle it out in Chapel Hill. UNC Coach Roy Williams and coach UK John Calipari teams come into this highly-anticipated matchup looking to making a statement.
North Carolina has won four of five, defeated Louisville and Michigan State and rejoined the top 25. Kentucky has been recently upset by Baylor, dropped out of the top 10 and do not have a signature victory so far this season.
Regardless, the Wildcats are loaded with talent and can explode at anytime with freshman big man Julius Randle looking every bit a top NBA draft pick next summer. However, Randle can not do it all and will need help from guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison if the Wildcats can beat the Tar Heels at the Dean Dome.
North Carolina has gotten consistent play from point guard Marcus Paige, but the other four positions have struggled at times. Post players Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks both have shown off a variety of ways they can help, but neither has had success in more than two-straight games. Joel James is a presence with his size, but offers little on offense.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo has has his problems on offense this season, but has been somewhat backed up by the play of J.P. Tokoto. If North Carolina is going to beat Kentucky, someone other than Paige will also need to step up in an offensive role.
North Carolina is mostly reliant on its starting five, but coach Roy Williams will need to find someone off of his bench to provide valuable minutes as means to set up the late-game heroics that will most likely be needed from Marcus Paige. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have shown they can add some spark, but because of their defensive requirements, both could struggle on offense. This leaves scoring from the bench up-the-air for UNC. Kentucky also struggles when the bench comes in and did not get a single point from a non-starter in the victory over Boise State. If anyone can add anything, UK could get just enough.
4. Julius Randle Vs. UNC's Frontline
Kentucky's Julius Randle (17 PPG, 12 RPG) is an absolute beast to deal with for opposing post defenders. UNC has the size with Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, but none of them are superior one-on-one post defenders. UNC's best hope of defending Randle is hoping he gets worn down on defense and it translates to his offense. Randle is an NBA player going against non-NBA defenders. He will dominate this game.
3. Guards Not Named Marcus Paige
Both North Carolina and Kentucky have some serious skill at the guard positions, but it does not always show with play on the court. North Carolina's Nate Britt will have to score more than he has this season off of fast-break layups. Britt will also have to guard either Aaron Harrison or Andrew Harrison. This will not be an easy task for him. The Harrisons both average more than 10 PPG and will give the Tar Heels fits.
2. Marcus Paige Vs. Everyone
Marcus Paige is North Carolina's best player and is one of the best players in all of the NCAA this season. The guard has truly taken a major leap as he is averaging 18.8 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.5 RPG. Paige is also a very reliable three-point shooter (39 percent). His greatest trait is his sneaky fast moves to the goal. Paige can beat most players off of the dribble and runs laps without the ball. Paige will need to score to keep North Carolina close and there is no reason to believe he will struggle.
1. Roy Williams Vs. John Calipari
This game has all the makings of being an early season NCAA classic. Both teams have strengths that counter the other's weaknesses and both teams can score the roof off of the gym. This is where Carolina coach Roy Williams and UK coach John Calipari will show off their tactical skills. This game would not surprise anyone if a late-game offensive set or a shift on defense determines which school picks up this important non-conference victory.