It seems like for the last couple of seasons, you never know what you’re going to get from the Tar Heels from game to game. They’ll struggle against a team with far less talent and easily handle those with equal or more. This sporadic play has frustrated both fans and Roy Williams.
Tomorrow, Carolina will face the greatest test of this young season when they take on the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. Two of the most storied programs will compete in a battle that could set the tone for each as they head into conference play in January.
After losing to seemingly “easy” opponents in Butler and Iowa, the question is, can Carolina pull off the upset? Kentucky is a team LOADED with talent and despite the recently announced loss of Alex Poythress to an ACL tear, Calipari has the most talented squad in the country. They are long, athletic and deep. If they don’t kill you with their size, they’ll destroy you by wearing you down with a steady rotation of fresh legs.
A win tomorrow could set the tone for Carolina and serve as a jump-start as they prepare for a tough ACC conference schedule. Do the Tar Heels have the talent to upset Kentucky? No question. Can they beat Kentucky? No question. But in order to do it they’ll have to excel in these key areas:
- Marcus Paige has to cook. Paige is one of the Nation’s most talented players, but shooting 35.5% won’t cut it for this team. They feed off him. When Paige is on, UNC is a dangerous team. When he’s off (4-16 for 13 pts, 0 ast and 3 TO vs Iowa), simply put…they lose. For UNC to have a chance against Kentucky, Paige is going to have to get off. He will need to score efficiently and consistently. The Wildcats’ defense, which is the stingiest in the county holding opponents to a 28.7% field goal percentage, won’t make it easy for Paige, but he has the talent to make a way out of now way.
- Post Play. If UNC will have any chance at taking down the #1 ranked team, their front court will have to come up BIG. They’re going to have to play BIG. They’re going to have to bang down low. You can’t be soft in the post and expect to beat a team full of future NBA first-round picks. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks will have to play like men tomorrow. If UNC can get strong play from their post, it will make Kentucky uncomfortable and more mistake prone.
- Rebounding. Let me say that again…REBOUND. Box out and REBOUND. This is a separate factor, but it depends heavily on how aggressive Johnson and Meeks are in the post. UNC will have to beat Kentucky on the boards to pull off a win.
- Hustling. In UNC’s two losses against Butler and Iowa, the other team simply wanted it more. They out-hustled the Tar Heels. They were quicker to dive on the floor for loose balls, more aggressive defensively and simply played tougher. Carolina will have to be the toughest team on the floor…shoot, the toughest team in America to beat Kentucky. Maybe they should listen to 2Pac’s “Me Against the World” before the game, because that’s the type of attitude they’ll have to play with.
Winning in Lexington will be a tall task, both literally and figuratively, but for some reason my spidey senses are telling me the Tar Heels will pull off the upset – although common sense tells me otherwise. SMH.
Gotta go with the spidey on this one…
My Prediction: UNC – 68 Kentucky – 65