Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
When: Saturday, December 5th, 12:30 PM
Records: UNC 7-1; UK 7-0
Take your pick among the storylines you want to gravitate towards on this. All time wins record between the two schools? Calipari vs Roy? John Wall? Demarcus Cousins? Tyler Zeller's Revenge? There is plenty of compelling stuff here but in the end it basically comes down to a December meeting between to highly ranked teams who are still pretty young and finding their way.
Much of the attention will be on John Wall, the #1 player in the class of 2009 and UNC attempting to contain him. However this is a balanced team. Wall is the team's leading scorer but there are three other guards who combine for 29 ppg. On the interior Patrick Patterson and Demarcus Cousins average 16 ppg each. Yes, Wall is the focal point but this Kentucky team can score from every position on the floor which will require a concerted team effort to disrupt their offense.
On the other end of the court, UNC will try to build off the performance on Wednesday night. The Heels had a balanced attack with great outside shooting and plenty of solid work on the interior by Ed Davis and Deon Thompson. A repeat of that would go a long way towards the Heels possibly stealing this game in Lexington. As always the turnovers are key and even though the Heels got by with 17 miscues against MSU, I don't recommend it as a normal mode of operation. Since his game will be up-tempo the possibilities of turnovers increases for both teams. Interestingly enough UK is averaging 17.1 turnovers per game versus 17.3 for the Heels. This game could very well come down to which team forces the other closest to the their turnover average and how much they score off fast breaks created by those turnovers. Both teams have size and athletic players on the interior. Controlling the boards, especially on the defensive end could dictate the tempo as well.
The mixture of experienced players with contributing freshmen on both teams is similar. For UNC's young players this is their first foray into a hostile arena. That could be a factor on top of the fact the young lot on both teams are still getting a feel for the college game. In other words, for all the hype Kentucky has received, I am not sure there is much difference between the two at this point. The question is which team has their younger/role players step up huge. UK does get much bench scoring whereas UNC liberally subs and generally has fresher legs than the other team on a regular basis.
This will be a tough game. It would be nice to win it but playing UK on the road in a game the Wildcat faithful will be amped up to try and win does not bode well for the Heels. In light of that and the belief that UK has just a little more, for the first time in over two years I am going to call a UNC loss.
UK 83 UNC 76