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UNC vs Kentucky: Matchup to watch

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A look at why the point guards may determine who wins between UNC and Kentucky on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Hawaii Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

UNC and Kentucky are set to face off for the first time since 2014. Blue bloods squaring off is great for college basketball and this is destined to be one of the marquee games to watch, not just Saturday, but all year. The game involves many great matchups and storylines but one stands out above the rest, the matchup between the point guards from these storied programs. Here is a look at these two players and how they will impact Saturday’s matchup.

The matchup of De’Aaron Fox vs Joel Berry is something every college basketball fan should tune in to watch. Fox is Kentucky’s stud freshman who is averaging 15.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 6.9 APG on the year. He is also the second player in Kentucky’s storied history to record a triple double, as he put up 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 115-69 win over Arizona State.

The kid is Kentucky’s catalyst and general on the floor, just as Berry is for North Carolina. It is clear that UNC goes as Joel Berry goes. In their two games without him they have won by closer than comfortable margins against Davidson 83-74 and Tennessee, where the Heels won 73-71.

In these two games opposing point guards have played extremely well against the Heels. Davidson’s point guard Jack Gibbs put up 30 points while Tennessee’s Robert Hubbs III scored 21 points. Hubbs isn’t exactly the point guard for the Vols but he assumed that role because it was something they were able to exploit against the Heels.

It’s impossible to just say that UNC would have won bigger if they had Berry, but by the eye test alone you could see how stagnant the offense was without him, and how easily it seemed opposing point guards blew past any player Carolina assigned to them.

Berry’s absence can be felt statistically as well. With Berry on the floor, the Heels are averaging 90 points a game. Without him they are only averaging 70. His back up, Nate Britt, is shooting a miserable 4-22 from the floor. However, it isn’t just on offense that UNC is missing Berry, as his defensive prowess is also needed. On the year North Carolina has allowed 70 points in only three of their nine games. Without Berry, the Tar Heels have given up 70 points in both games.

If Berry plays, this matchup will be fun to watch as he is an excellent defender. It will be a treat for college basketball fans to watch him go up against someone that many people are comparing to John Wall. UNC honestly needs Berry to return. Could they beat Kentucky without him? Possibly, but it is going to be a whole lot harder to do that without their leader on the floor.

If Berry isn’t able to lace it up, Fox could be a massive problem for the Tar Heels on Saturday. If he is able to play—and play at full strength—then the matchup will be incredible to watch and UNC stands a great chance to leave Las Vegas with a win.