At A Glance:
Kentucky: 7-0. AP Rank: 5 ESPN Rank: 4 BP Rank: 4 RPI: 41 BPI: 8 Offense: 83.0 ppg Defense: 65.0 ppg
North Carolina: 7-1. AP Rank: 10 ESPN Rank: 11 BP Rank: 6 RPI: 62 BPI: 25 Offense: 84.4 ppg Defense: 72.3 ppg
UK’s John Wall has had so much hype that he will be releasing his own summer blockbuster movie titled “Wall: The Experience” starring Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and John Calipari as the Beaver. You know what? It’s been justified. He can’t be a freshman, can he? Enough superlatives, just watch and enjoy.
UNC’s Larry Drew II: Electric Boogaloo has done an admirable job replacing Ty Lawson. He actually has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Wall (2.2 to 2) but only scores half as much (nine-to-19).
Eric Bledsoe played point guard very well when Wall was suspended for two games earlier this season but is a more natural shooting guard. Foul him at your own risk (88 percent). Darnell Dodson got out of Calipari’s doghouse against UNC-Asheville but his defensive deficiencies must be addressed unless he wants to go back to dining on Milk-Bones.
Marcus Ginyard is a defensive stalwart who may have the best chance of slowing down Wall. He is also a double-figure scorer who can fill each category on the stat sheet. The possible Wall/Ginyard battle is one of several subplots that bear watching.
Advantage: North Carolina.
Darius Miller has been steady all season following a bagel in the opener against Morehead State. He won’t be the primary option on offense but can stick a jumper when asked.
Will Graves is the nominal starter at the three-spot for UNC but usually cedes time to Tyler Zeller and John Henson. He hasn’t shot well (38 percent) and has served suspensions in the past for detrimental conduct.
Patrick Patterson wanted to come back so he could shed a possible dubious honor (Best Wildcat To Never Win A NCAA Tournament Game). No worries there barring something cataclysmic. He has taken to shooting threes to showcase other skills to the NBA scouts and at nearly forty percent it’s worked well so far. Since he’s averaging a double-double he’s allowed flights of fancy.
Deon Thompson has blossomed now that he’s not in Tyler Hansbrough’s shadow. Unlike Patterson he stays in the paint on a full-time basis but still manages to lead the Heels in scoring at nearly 18 a game.
Judging by sheer mass and torque (and other physics terms) Patterson would look to have the edge but this is actually the most even battle on paper.
DeMarcus Cousins is a classic stone golem at the pivot who can’t be matched up with. He can also be his own worst enemy as he’s a threat to foul out every game and he tends to get emotional when things don’t go his way. Like Wall, he’s probably going to play for pay next season.
Ed Davis draws the task of taking on Cousins in another evenly-matched front-line battle. Davis is a bit more even-keeled than his Kentucky counterpart and also has championship experience, which could prove valuable.
Advantage: North Carolina.
Dodson is likely to come off the pine again with support from defensive demon Ramon Harris and backup behemoth Daniel Orton. Orton has played well in spurts when Cousins wasn’t available but his stamina is a bit questionable. Harris will be lucky to get a basket but so will his defensive assignment. It’s a trade-off Calipari can live with.
Tyler Zeller gets knocked down more than a palookah at Kronk Gym but would be a 20-point a game scorer if he started. John Henson has justified some of the hype surrounding him but will be better off that Roy Williams is bringing him along slowly. Dexter Strickland and Justin Watts can give effective minutes in the backcourt if needed.
Advantage: North Carolina
John Calipari could be considered the Best Active Coach Without An NCAA Championship. He would have a great chance this season were it not for Kansas but the fact that he’s brought in a whole new philosophy and the Cats have cruised so far (albeit against sub-par competition) bodes well. This will be the first real test and they must decrease their turnovers to have a shot.
Roy Williams knows Calipari’s pain but has won two championships and has reloaded with only one returning starter from last year’s victors. Aside from the Syracuse loss this team has played well in every game. Don’t be surprised if the Heels are back in the Final Four again.
Advantage : North Carolina
North Carolina comes off a big win over Michigan State where they eliminated the Spartans’ outside game. Kentucky comes off a win over UNC-Asheville that was over before it even began. Kentucky will have the Rupp faithful behind them but are facing a five-game losing streak to the Heels. It will be a fantastic matchup but North Carolina gets a close one in the end to extend the streak to six.
North Carolina 78, Kentucky 74.