College Hoops Saturday: North Carolina at Kentucky

    
December 3rd, 2011

The game that many college basketball fans have been anticipating for quite some time is finally here, as #5 North Carolina (6-1) visits #1 Kentucky (7-0) in Lexington. While both teams are coming off of wins in their last games, the way in which the results were achieved differ greatly. North Carolina had to deal with the challenge of play Wisconsin, given the Badgers' preference for a slow tempo, while Kentucky blew out a St. John's team that was severely overmatched from a depth standpoint. The Tar Heels will provide a far stiffer challenge for a Kentucky team that set a school record on Thursday night with an astonishing 18 blocked shots, and freshman phenom Anthony Davis (13.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 4.9 bpg) led the way with nine blocks.

The Chicago native is an extremely difficult matchup due to his wingspan and ability to run the floor, but Saturday will be the first time this season that Davis and the rest of the Kentucky thoroughbreds run into a front line that can match them in this regard. John Henson (14.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.3 bpg) and Tyler Zeller (13.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are experienced big men who can match the skill level of the young Wildcats, but will North Carolina will be able to match that depth? Freshman James Michael McAdoo is averaging a shade below six points per game in fourteen minutes of action, but that only makes three players for UNC. Kentucky can answer with Terrence Jones (15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), the versatile Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and if his defense is up to par Kyle Wiltjer. 

The Wildcats average 11.4 blocked shots per game and who knows how many other shots they change each game. Kidd-Gilchrist could very well match up with sophomore wing Harrison Barnes (17.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), who can be taken out of his offensive comfort zone if pressed into working for his looks. The good news for the Tar Heels is that they've got one of the best set-up men in the country in point guard Kendall Marshall (10.3 apg, 4.7 rpg). Marshall's got an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.8, and his assist percentage of 44.8% ranks seventh nationally according to statsheet.com.

Kentucky will have to cut off the head of the attack in order to slow down North Carolina, which means that freshman Marcus Teague (10.7 ppg, 4.1 apg) needs to play a mature brand of basketball. Teague is an impressive basketball player, but the transition to point guard in John Calipari's system has (and will) take some time (assist-to-turnover ratio: 1.3). Joining Teague in the backcourt for Kentucky are a pair of experienced hands in sophomore Doron Lamb (14.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg) and senior Darius Miller (8.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg), and both have been better than the freshman at taking care of the basketball.

Teague will more than likely have to deal with junior Dexter Strickland for part of the game, as Strickland did a solid job of defending Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor on Wednesday night. Strickland is an impressive athlete who has fit well into the role of the Tar Heels' defensive stopper, which is perfectly fine given the scoring firepower at Roy Williams' disposal. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston (upgraded to questionable with an injury to his left wrist) will both see time off the bench and they combine to average more than thirteen points and six rebounds per game on the season.

Given the expected intensity of this contest, especially in the early going, depth could become a factor if anyone gets into early foul trouble. Unless the culprit is Henson or Zeller the Tar Heels should be fine in this area, but the bigger question for them is how effective Marshall can be as a defender. The sophomore was solid against Wisconsin, but the style that Kentucky plays can put more "immediate" pressure on a defender as opposed to the slower style played by the Badgers. A lot of the stats are close when looking at these two powers, which hopefully will mean a tight game throughout.

In other action on a busy Saturday, Ohio State plays what should be a routine game against UTPA with Jared Sullinger out due to back spasms. This should be a good game for an Evan Ravenel to get acclimated to playing more minutes should Sullinger be out for an extended period of time. But the big one has to be undefeated Marquette visiting Wisconsin in one of the better rivalry games around. Vander Blue plays his first college game in his hometown, but the reception he receives won't be the only intrigue. Buzz Williams' team gets after it on the defensive end, and seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have both gotten off to good starts to the season. Jordan Taylor and the Badgers will look to get back on track in front of the Grateful Red, and it wouldn't be a surprise at all if they did. 

Purdue visiting Xavier, Iowa State visiting Michigan and Gonzaga playing Illinois at the United Center are three more games involving ranked teams to keep an eye on, and West Virginia's trip to Starkville should be intriguing as well. And while Boston College is struggling their battle with Boston University in the battle for Commonwealth Ave. should be fun if only to watch the Terriers' Darryl Partin. USC plays Minnesota in a matchup of teams who have been hit hard by the injury bug, and the hope is that more warm bodies occupy the Sports Arena with UCLA hosting Texas. In the Atlantic Sun defending champion Belmont hosts Mercer, with the Bears hoping to show that they can contend for the conference title.

There are too many good games on the schedule to touch on them all, but also of note is a Big 5 battle between Penn and Villanova, which will match two of the best guards in the city in Zack Rosen (Penn) and Maalik Wayns (Villanova), and the late games include Missouri State visiting New Mexico in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley challenge. Enjoy the first really big Saturday of the season.  

Top 25 Games
12:00 PM (5) North Carolina at (1) Kentucky (CBS)
12:00 PM Texas-Pan American at (2) Ohio State (BTN.com)
4:30 PM (16) Marquette at (7) Wisconsin
3:15 PM Arkansas at (10) Connecticut (ESPN)
3:00 PM Purdue at (11) Xavier (ESPNU)
5:15 PM USF at (14) Kansas (ESPN2)
12:00 PM Iowa State at (15) Michigan (BTN)
5:15 PM (17) Pittsburgh at Tennessee (ESPN)
3:15 PM (18) Gonzaga at Illinois (ESPN2)
8:30 PM Austin Peay at (21) Memphis (CSS)
9:00 PM West Virginia at (24) Mississippi State (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Portland at (25) Saint Louis

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Jacksonville at North Florida (ESPN3)
1:00 PM NJIT at Georgetown (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Old Dominion at Northeastern
1:00 PM Richmond at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Longwood at Virginia (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Kennesaw State at Lipscomb
1:00 PM High Point at Campbell
1:00 PM Massachusetts at Miami (FL) (ESPNU)
2:00 PM Vermont at Yale
2:00 PM Boston University at Boston College (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Morgan State at Ohio
2:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Milwaukee
2:00 PM Liberty at Coastal Carolina
2:00 PM Valparaiso at Butler
2:00 PM Cleveland State at Detroit
2:00 PM Navy at Elon
2:00 PM William & Mary at Georgia State
2:00 PM Georgia Tech at Tulane (CBSSN)
2:15 PM USC at Minnesota (BTN)
2:30 PM Colorado State at Northern Iowa
3:00 PM St. Thomas (TX) at Rice
3:00 PM Stony Brook at Eastern Illinois
3:00 PM Brown at Iowa
3:00 PM Bryant University at Quinnipiac
3:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at SIU-Edwardsville
3:00 PM Ball State at Tennessee-Martin
3:00 PM Youngstown State at Wright State
3:05 PM Toledo at Chicago State
3:30 PM Sacred Heart at Central Connecticut State
4:00 PM Drexel at Delaware (TCN)
4:00 PM Arizona State at Tulsa (CBSSN)
4:00 PM Central Michigan at Temple
4:00 PM Chattanooga at Charleston (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Utah at Fresno State
4:00 PM Florida A&M at Bethune-Cookman
4:00 PM W. Virginia Tech at Coppin State
4:00 PM James Madison at Hofstra
4:00 PM Bucknell at La Salle
4:00 PM Delaware State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
4:00 PM North Carolina A&T at North Carolina Central
4:00 PM Nebraska-Omaha at Northern Illinois
4:30 PM Texas at UCLA (FSN)
4:30 PM UNC Greensboro at Western Carolina
5:00 PM Charlotte at East Carolina
5:00 PM Oregon vs. Brigham Young* (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Idaho at UC Davis
5:00 PM Houston Baptist at Texas State
5:00 PM Hartford at UCF
5:15 PM East Tennessee State at Florida Gulf Coast
5:15 PM Mercer at Belmont
5:30 PM VMI at Charleston Southern
6:00 PM Texas Southern at Denver
6:00 PM Savannah State at Norfolk State
6:00 PM UMKC at Oakland
6:30 PM Northern Arizona at Arizona (FSN AZ)
6:35 PM Eastern Washington at Washington State (Root NW)
7:00 PM North Dakota State at IUPUI
7:00 PM New Hampshire at Holy Cross
7:00 PM Long Island at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM LSU at Rutgers (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Lehigh at Cornell
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Villanova (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Army at Binghamton
7:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Buffalo (TWC SportsNet)
7:00 PM Furman at Davidson
7:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Duquesne
7:00 PM Brescia at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM Winthrop at Gardner-Webb (MASN)
7:00 PM UAB at Kent State
7:00 PM Radford at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Monmouth at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Siena (Time Warner)
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Saint Francis (PA)
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Wagner
7:00 PM Citadel at Wofford
7:30 PM George Mason at Towson
7:30 PM Appalachian State at Georgia Southern
7:30 PM Alabama State at FIU
7:30 PM South Dakota at IPFW
8:00 PM Southern Utah at Oral Roberts
8:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at Texas A&M
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Houston
8:00 PM Columbia vs. North Texas*
8:00 PM Air Force at Drake
8:00 PM Miami (OH) at Troy
8:00 PM South Dakota State at Western Illinois
8:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Green Bay (HLN)
8:05 PM Alabama A&M at South Alabama
8:05 PM TCU at Evansville
8:05 PM UNC Wilmington at Illinois State
8:05 PM Walla Walla University at Portland State
8:30 PM Louisiana Tech at Louisiana-Monroe
8:30 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Southeast Missouri State
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Montana State
9:05 PM North Dakota at Idaho State
9:05 PM Johnson and Wales (Den) at Northern Colorado
9:30 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Lamar
9:30 PM San Jose State at Weber State
10:00 PM Saint Mary's at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Indiana State at Boise State
10:00 PM Missouri State at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
10:00 PM San Diego at UC Irvine
10:00 PM Hawaii at Pepperdine
10:00 PM Cal State Northridge at Santa Clara
10:00 PM Bradley at Wyoming
10:05 PM Utah State at Pacific
10:30 PM La Sierra University at Loyola Marymount