The Kentucky Wildcats fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels in a close game in Chapel Hill. Many college basketball fans may call the victory an upset, but the Tar Heels were aided by big performances from Marcus Paige, James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto. After inexplicable losses to the Belmont Bruins and UAB Blazers earlier in the season, the Tar Heels are proving to the rest of the nation that they will be a dangerous team poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
The most impressive aspect of North Carolina’s victory is the way they have responded in these tough matchups without the services of P.J. Hairston, their leading scorer from a year ago. Hairston is still serving a suspension for his offseason misconduct involving speeding tickets and rental cars registered in the name of a convicted felon. Without Hairston in the lineup, the Tar Heels were not supposed to be able to compete in this type of matchup.
Every season, John Calipari sends a group of players to the NBA, but somehow he is able to reload annually with a fresh crop of pro-level talent in his recruiting classes. The Wildcats started the season as the top-ranked team in the country, because of the strength of their recruiting class. Unfortunately, Kentucky is proving for the second-consecutive year that talent alone does not make an elite team.
The Wildcats began last season ranked amongst the top five teams in the country, but finished the season with a loss to the Robert Morris Colonials in the NIT. This game against the Tar Heels is the Wildcats’ second loss of the season, because their young talent lacks the experience to limit their mistakes in tough road games. The Wildcats committed 17 turnovers for the game, and freshmen Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison were guilty of four each.
North Carolina escaped with a five-point victory because they were able to take advantage of the young Wildcats’ mistakes. The Tar Heels are proving that they are a better team than everyone thought, while the Wildcats appear to be overrated. Maybe if these teams met for a rematch later in the season, the results may be different, but the Wildcats are nowhere near being one of the elite teams in the country.