North Carolina Basketball takes on Kentucky at Rupp Arena

If you would have prefered to watch paint dry than to watch the game between the Tar Heels and the Badgers due to the tempo today’s game between fifth ranked North Carolina (6-1) and top ranked Kentucky (7-0) should be exactly what you are looking for. It’s not the 1 vs 2 match-up everyone was hoping for at Rupp Arena, but it’s not going to be any less exciting as two of the best teams of the seaons, as well as two of the most winningest programs, square off with tip off being at noon EST (television coverage on CBS). It’s also the game that anyone that bleeds carolina blue has been waiting for since the loss in the Elite Eight. Head coach Roy Williams said this about how he sees the tempo of the game going…

“I really believe they could save some power in Rupp Arena and not even have the shot clock this weekend,” the coach said. “Kentucky wants to run. We want to run.”

Anyone that follows college basketball knows that this game is going to show plenty of players that not only are great at this level but will be great at the next level as well. NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford posted on his Twitter that the game features six projected lottery picks, nine players in ESPN’s top 30 and 12 players in its top 100 draft prospects. The one thing that could be in Carolina’s favor is that they start a team that was together last season, while Kentucky starts three freshmen and two sophomores. But with that the Tar Heels must also use that experience and add basics to it, like hitting their free throws and keep the turnovers to a minimum. This game is going to be in a packed arena that holds 23,500 and giving the spectators any reason to make it even more louder is something that can not happen.

Kentucky has played the dribble-drive offense, and in the past three games against Carolina it has turned into plenty of shots from outside the arc. I am curious to see if coach Williams will once again put Dexter Strickland on the Wildcats’ point guard to stay in front of him and get their squad out of synch, something that UNC used against Wisconsin and it worked well. But there will be more things that will factor in a win or a loss, such as 50-50 balls, rebounding, overall hustle and attention to details on both sides of the ball. Playing on the road the Tar Heels need to be able to win, or at least push, in all those categories if they want to go back to Chapel Hill with a win. From the sounds of junior big man John Henson guarding the three point shot is something that Carolina has been talking and working on…

“Hopefully they’ll shoot a little worse than they did the last three games, but also just staying in front of your man,” Henson said. “Shooting a high percentage from three comes from open threes and that’s something that we’ve given them a lot just because of their dribble penetration. I’ve never played against a team that if we got out there and challenged them they shot well from three.”

Speaking of Henson there has been a lot of comparing him and Kentucky’s freshman Anthony Davis, something that however coach Williams, with one exception, does not agree with…

“I think they’re really different,” Williams said. “I don’t think they’re nearly as similar expect that both of them have an ability to block shots. I think they’re really different players, but if somebody else wants to make that comparison and say they’re similar, that’s fine, but I don’t think they’re very similar.”

The Henson-Davis will be one of the many potentially great head to head showdowns in this game. As said before they both can block shots, the key in this one will be who can stay in the game and keep up with the other as they run up and down the floor without getting in foul trouble. Many see Davis getting the edge in this one, and while I might be bias, I see it differently, as experience is going to count in this game, and Henson has that. However a war, like this game could be, is going to be won by how well the general leads his troops, and that means the comparison to look at has to be Kendall Marshall against Marquis Teague. From what I have watched and read the Wildcats’ point guard has been getting better but still makes so-so decisions, while we all know that when Marshall has the ball it seems to get to the right team mate at the right time. If the two play on par on how they been doing I see the advantage going to UNC and that is going to be huge in the outcome of this game.

The Vegas insiders say that Kentucky is a 6.5 points favorite and I see that as way too much. While they are at home I have to believe that the Wildcats are going to be in a for a tough one as the Tar Heels want to show that the loss to UNLV was a bump in the road and nothing more, and what better way to prove that than to knock off the current top ranked squad. In a game that should end in the eighties I see UNC winning it by three 85 to 82, beating a top ranked squad for the 13th time in their history, as the college basketball world gets to see double digit future NBA stars play. Due to both conferences getting bigger this rivalry might be halted for a while, you have to believe if the game lives up to the hype it’s going to be a heck of a send off.

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