For the second consecutive season, UNC will meet Kentucky in the annual CBS Sports Classic, despite the matchup not being scheduled. Carolina was slated to play UCLA on Saturday, while Kentucky was supposed to play Ohio State. COVID issues in both the UCLA and Ohio State programs, caused them to sit out, pitting two of the winningest programs in the sport on the same floor. Add in the game will be played in Las Vegas, this will not only be must-see tv but a more attractive game for tourists to visit.
Kentucky enters with a 7-2 record, still seeking a signature win early in the season. Their two losses have come against Duke in the season opener and at Notre Dame last week. John Calipari’s squad is among the best rebounding teams in all of college basketball, as they ranked third in offensive rebounds per game (15.2), and third overall in rebounds per game at 43.9. Their rebounding prowess is led by Oscar Tshiebwe, who leads the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game, and rebounds with 14.4. The Wildcats only have three players averaging double figures scoring, and they uniquely get their offense. In an era of teams hoisting more and more three points, Kentucky leads the country with 25.9 made two points baskets, and is third overall in attempts with 46.7. As much disdain as Tar Heel fans have with the UK program, they are playing a brand of basketball Carolina utilized under Roy Williams.
Carolina is currently 8-2, having won 5 straight games led by their defense. For the first time since the 2010-11 season, Carolina has held opponents to under 63 points in 5 straight games, that team would go on the win to win the ACC regular season, and make the Elite Eight. UNC is functioning at an efficient level offensively to complement the improved defense, as they have 5 players averaging double figures scoring, and are seventh in the NCAA in three-point shooting.
The Tar Heels have wins over Michigan at home, and a road win at Georgia Tech, but given the name on the front of this opponent’s jersey, this would be the biggest win for the team, and Hubert Davis. They will have their work cut out for them, here’s how they bring home a big-time win:
Rebound: Carolina has proven to still be a quality rebounding team, despite the change in philosophy. With that in mind though, this will be their toughest test to date. Kentucky might be the best rebounding team Carolina sees until the NCAA Tournament if they were to make it. Limiting Tshiebwe is nearly impossible, so you can only hope to contain him. It’s going to be important that Armando Bacot stays out of foul trouble, as he has the best body to battle with Tshiebwe in the post. The Tar Heels have gotten contributions from all 5 starters this season in the rebounding department, they’ll need their best foot forward today.
2 Point Defense: We usually talk about 3 point defense, but as mentioned above Kentucky thrives on shooting from inside the arc. TyTy Washington is an aggressive downhill guard that will want to attack relentlessly. That means it will be imperative that Carolina stays in front of the basketball. It would also help to keep Kentucky off the offensive glass and limit them to one-shot possessions. We haven’t seen zone defense for an extended period of time this season, this could be a game Hubert Davis has to go to that if they can’t contain dribble penetration.
Make Perimeter Shots: The Tar Heels have shot less than 33% from behind the arc in their last two games. While it is not time to panic, Carolina will need to make perimeter in this game to soften up a stingy Kentucky defense. Kerwin Walton hasn’t been as involved as he and many Tar Heel fans would like, but considering he came on to the scene against Kentucky last year, he may be due.
Series History: Carolina is 25-16 against their blue blood rival, as they are the only program in college basketball to have more than 10 wins and a winning record against the Wildcats. Oh their 41 all-time matchups, UNC is 13-6 against the UK, including a win last year in Cleveland. UNC is only 1-2 against Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic, but 5-2 overall in the event.
UNC - 31st. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.2 (13th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.7 (75th)
Kentucky - 21st. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.9 (19th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.9 (39th)
UNC - 29th.
Kentucky - 51st.
TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 5:30 PM on CBS.
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