Two of college basketball's premier programs will battle on the hardwood, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, when Carolina meets UCLA. Both of these storied programs enter with records they aren't proud of. Carolina owns a 6-5 mark, having lost the decisively. To make matters worst they are without star guard Cole Anthony for the next month or so. UCLA enters with a 7-4 record in their first year under head Mick Cronin. The Bruins are adjusting to a defensive first mindset under Cronin, but there's never a shortage of talent in Westwood. UCLA puts 4 players in double figures, led by junior Chris Smith and his 11.3 points. Their struggles can't be understated as they barely beat Cal Poly, lost to Hofstra, and got blown out at Notre Dame. Cronin is a quality head coach, but it's going to take time to revive a program that's been largely irrelevant this decade on the national scene.
Carolina can be competitive in this game, and has a chance to win for the first time since the Bahamas. This game also dictates the next stretch because if you win, you're sitting at 7-5 with the next 4 games being played in Chapel Hill. 3 keys ti beating UCLA:
1. Post Play: Garrison Brooks has really stepped up his game on the offensive end, the problem is that Armando Bacot has struggled to help produce inside. Bacot has limped to just 3-20 in the last two games, you have to wonder if the ankle is still bothering him back from that Ohio State game. Nonetheless this team needs both of the bigs to play well at the same time for them to have a chance, as the perimeter game continues to progress.
2. Point Guard Production: Jeremiah Francis has really inspired this team with play, but he can't carry the load as he works himself back from a knee injury. In the game against Gonzaga, Anthony Harris scored 8 points, as he appears to become comfortable as he himself works back from injury. K.J. Smith also needs to keep doing the little things, that have earned him the trust of Roy Williams. If the trio of guards can contribute in a positive way, it'll help this team in numerous ways.
3. Shot Making: This group is desperate to find someone to start making shots on a consistent basis. Jay Bilas expressed this in the broadcast of the Gonzaga game, that Carolina is finding good shots they just can't make them. Christian Keeling has his best game in Tar Heel uniform, scoring 12 points on 5-7 shooting. Is he the guy going to step up? Leaky Black as appeared timid on the offensive end. Can he step up and help this team? Carolina certainly hopes those two guys, and others to start making shots to get this offense back to where we're use to seeing.
Series History: Despite this being a matchup of the sports better teams, Carolina has owned the Bruins to this point. The Heels have won eight of nine, and own a 9-3 mark against the former powerhouse program from California.
UNC: 40th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 107.2 ( 48th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency- 91.7 ( 42nd )
UCLA: 115th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 105.5 ( 72nd ) Adjsuted Defensive Efficiency- 100.9 ( 177th )
TV Info: With this game being played in the CBS Sports Classic, CBS will televise this game with a tip scheduled for 3 pm eastern time.
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