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UNC 86, Penn 71: And Now, Kentucky

I've haven't mentioned basketball much this fall, in part because I've had little to say. UNC brought back practically everyone from last year, added an impressive recruiting class, and was unanimous preseason #1. There's only so many ways to say, "This team is going to be good," and I figured most of them had already been said. Then, of course, I had this conversation at the UNC alumni shindig prior to the Maryland debacle:

Fellow UNC Fan: ...and I'm recording the game, in case the rain's so bad we need to find out what happens after the fact.

Me: Ah, but are you also recording the basketball game?

F.U.F: There's a basketball game?

Me: Yep. Against Penn, at four.

F.U.F.: Man, I've really got to start reading the sports page again.

So for those of you I've let down and left without the information you so desperately need: Yes, basketball season has started. It began in what has become a tradition in the last couple of years, with lackluster play against an inferior opponent, but at least it wasn't an embarrassing home loss or anything. The freshmen outperformed expectations - Zeller with 18 points, and Davis with 10 points and 14 rebounds - and the team played well with a good chunk of its senior leadership on the bench and what for Carolina passes for not a lot of depth. After all, when was the last time only seven players had more than fifteen minutes of floor time?

Next up, of course, is UNC-Kentucky, moved over to ESPN and shoved ridiculously early in the basketball calendar as some sort of marathon television stunt. This game in particular deserves better, but it managed to get Bobby Knight in a Carolina blue sweater, so it's still head and shoulders above anything else you'll see before the new year.

The Wildcats return much of the same team that was dispatched by the Heels last year in an orgy of fouling; they lost their go-to shooter Jamal Crawford and point guard Ramel Bradley to graduation. The core of the team is now the Patrick Patterson / Perry Stevenson front line with Jodie Meeks (who missed the UNC game, and much of the season, to injuries) out on the perimeter draining shots right and left. Hansbrough won't play in this game, either, but the matchups for Kentucky are still pretty rough. UNC has interior size the Wildcats can't match, and depth (even short two starters) to keep pace should Kentucky try to outrun the Heels to compensate. Provided the youth holds up - and they're being thrust into the deep end quicker than expected - Carolina should win by a nice eight point margin with the home court advantage.