Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, December 4th, 12:30 PM
Records: UNC 4-3; UK 5-1
After seven games this season and a 4-3 record, I did note in Friday's press conference the fact Roy Williams seems much less frustrated and far less agitated about certain aspects of the team he was rather pissed about a year ago. You hardly ever hear Roy mention the Heels' effort or express doubts on whether the players are grasping the system. Roy appears to be optimistic about their chances moving forward mainly because he thinks the Heels biggest problem is the lack of development and experience in most of the young players on the team. That would imply Roy is not extremely upset with the Heels' level of play in terms of effort. His frustration with the poor shooting, turnovers and a lack of defensive rebounding is obvious though it would seem Roy believes those issues can be fixed.
In facing Kentucky, UNC will have a good shot at winning this game providing the Wildcats don't come out and rain threes from all over. The Heels have an edge on the interior are giving away too much on the perimeter both in terms of the Tar Heel penchant for not defending the three point shot and the lack of offensive production from Dexter Strickland and Larry Drew. What that basically means is UNC is probably going to get what they need from Henson and Zeller. The question is whether Drew or Strickland finally make a difference on the perimeter or is this the long awaited Harrison Barnes coming out party?
Harrison Barnes has struggled to find any semblance of an offense. His shots have been off. He has been unable to effectively drive to the basket and even when he does, he has not been able to finish. At the same time the likes of Kyrie Irving or a player Barnes will see in this game, Terence Jones, have all played at a very high level. The only thing we can get from Roy on Barnes is the freshman is just that and he is pressing too much. The problem most fans are having with that explanation is there are many examples of freshmen making an impact out of the gate, why not Barnes? Given what happened over in Durham on Wednesday night, I would like nothing better than for Barnes to put a show across the bow of Irving and put up a memorable performance in this one. The game vs UK in 2006 served as a catalyst for that team which was constructed from a mix of senior role players and talented freshmen. Can the same be true here and might it be Barnes who leads UNC there? I hope so, though there have been rumors on IC and also coming to me from other sources that Barnes is hampered by a calf injury UNC has not talked about. An injury would explain many things but not why UNC would keep it hidden, unless Barnes asked them to for reasons only known to him. If Barnes is healthy then the issues are related to his confidence which can only be salved by a breakout game.
And not to push the NCAA bubble panic button quite yet but UNC really needs to beat some quality teams at some point, no better time than the present right?
UNC 81 UK 77