North Carolina vs Kentucky, 5:15 PM, ESPN
If Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino constitute a pair of coaches Roy Williams has enjoyed success against, then the next two teams UNC faces have coaches Williams has not won against since he returned to Chapel Hill. UNC is 1-3 against John Calipari's Kentucky team since he took over in Lexington prior to the 2010 season. In three games against Rick Barnes and Texas in that same span, UNC and Williams are 1-2. That's a 2-5 mark with the two wins coming in Chapel Hill, the site of today's game.
As noted in the "Tale of the Tape" this game is all about the big men. Neither teams shoots well from three making this very much a battle of post production. Which team can get sufficient scoring in the post and defend the interior without a lot of foul trouble? Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle represent the best and biggest duo of big men UNC has faced so far. It will be a challenge on both ends of the floor for the Tar Heel big men to operate and defend. Cauley-Stein is of particular concern averaging 4.3 blocks per game. UNC has not faced a shot blocker of this caliber to this point in the season. Likewise, Julius Randle's 12 rebounds per game make winning the rebounding battle for UNC very tough.
The question is who does UNC need a big game from to walk away with their third win over a ranked team this season? The answer in the two biggest wins of the season has been "everyone." The mark of what has made this team successful is a group of good players has played solid team basketball to produce great results.The box scores in the wins over Louisville and Michigan State have shown multiple players contributing in a positive manner with specific attention on Nate Britt and Kennedy Meeks.
That being said, Marcus Paige has been in a bit of a shooting slump which he really needs to break out of in this game. As good as Kentucky is on the interior, UNC is going to need some outside shooting. Paige has been the sole provider of three point shooting so if he can put together a good night, so much the better. Nate Britt and J.P. Tokoto also need to be legitimate offensive threats while taking care of the basketball. And while Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks need to do the things that they've done well so far, the good James Michael McAdoo needs to show up. UNC has shown they can win without him playing well, it would still be nice for him to contribute. Of course McAdoo will also be tasked with guarding Randle so even if he manages to keep the freshman in check, that might be all UNC needs.
In general, this doesn't look like a good match-up for UNC and this is also still a team prone to being unpredictable.
Kentucky 71 UNC 67