Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: December 10, 2011 10:48 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 9:47 am
 

Night Court: Brawl, upsets and no Sully


By Jeff Goodman

(NOTE: We will file a Night Court almost every night this season. Follow @GaryParrishCBS, @GoodmanCBS, @MattNorlander, @JeffBorzello and @EyeOnCBB on Twitter to make sure it gets sent to you as soon as it's posted.)

Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Indiana blew a 10-point second-half lead and it looked as though top-ranked Kentucky was going to escape with a victory in Bloomington -- until Hoosiers talented forward Christian Watford drilled a 3-pointer as time expired to give IU its biggest win in the Tom Crean Era. This one was riveting from the get-go and could wind up being a defining victory for a program that has worked its way out of the gutter. 

Game of the Day for all the wrong reasons: The latest edition of the Crosstown Shootout was unforgettable. Xavier exacted a measure of revenge on the court with a 23-point drubbing over Cincinnati, but it was the fracas that ended the game with nine seconds left that made this one a lasting memory. It began with trash-talking between Xavier's Tu Holloway and Ge'Lawn Guyn, but included several haymakers - one delivered by Bearcats senior Yancy Gates to fellow heavyweight Kenny Frease that left the Musketeers big man with blood gushing under his eye. This ugly scene completed overshadowed a terrific showing by a Xavier team that is currently ranked eighth in the nation. 

Win to brag about: Phil Martelli and his St. Joe's program have struggled the last couple years, winning a total of 22 times the last two seasons. It had been nearly three years since the Hawks had knocked off a Top 25 team, but St. Joe's handed an undefeated and ranked Creighton team its first loss of the season on Saturday. Junior guard Carl Jones scored 29 points in the 80-71 victory. 

Loss to hide from: Tennessee didn't just blow an 11-point lead, but they did it against an Austin Peay team that began the season with nine consecutive losses. The Vols, under new coach Cuonzo Martin, fell to 3-5 overall after watching Austin Peay score the final eight points of the game at Thompson-Boling Arena. 

Player who deserves improper benefits: Tyshawn Taylor - Kansas' senior guard, playing with a torn MCL that will require surgery on Sunday that is expected to put him on the shelf for the next couple weeks, logged 35 minutes, finished with nine points and 13 assists in the Jayhawks win over Ohio State. Sure, the Buckeyes didn't have Jared Sullinger. However, it doesn't take away from the gutsy effort put forth by Taylor. 

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Terrence Jones - He's still an enigma and yet another exhibit of how he hasn't yet changed came against Indiana when he finished with just four points and one rebound - and sat on the bench for the final minutes of the loss to the Hoosiers. One day Jones can look like the best player in America - and the next he can appear lazy and disinterested. 

Numbers don’t lie:

500: That's the number of career victories that Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus has after his Billikens defeated Illinois-Springfield, 72-62. 

1-0: That's UCLA's record in the post-Reeves Nelson Era. The Bruins defeated Penn, 77-73. Lazeric Jones scored 21 points in the win. 

38%: That's Mason Plumlee's free throw percentage after going 2-for-11 from the charity stripe in Duke's win over Washington.

43: That's how many points IUPUI's Alex Young put up tonight in a 84-76 win over Western Kentucky. The 6-foot-6 wing's previous career-high was 32.  

0: That was the number of field goal attempts Wisconsin All-American candidate Jordan Taylor made in 10 attempts. The Badgers somehow still managed to beat UNLV, 62-51. 

21 & 19: That was the final line for Delaware junior big man Jamelle Hagins on Saturday

Six Other notable results:

North Carolina edged Long Beach State, 84-78, in Chapel Hill. John Henson had 24 points and 10 boards, Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points and Kendall Marshall dished out 16 assists. Casper Ware had 29 for Long Beach State. 

Butler fell to 4-6 after losing to Ball State in Muncie. Khyle Marshall had 21 for the Bulldogs, but no one else for Brad Stevens' team was in double-figures. 

Syracuse had no issues with George Washington as the Orange rolled to a 85-50 victory, meaning that Jim Boeheim - in the midst of all the off-the-court issues involving his former assistant coach Bernie Fine - will likely assume the No. 1 spot when the polls are released on Monday. 

Kansas got a much-needed win over Ohio State in Lawrence, 78-67. The Jayhawks needed it because the Jared Sullinger (back spasms) wasn't on the court for Thad Matta's team. 

Temple, despite being without starting big man Micheal Eric, got the better of Villanova in a Big 5 matchup. Ramone Moore exploded for 32 for the Owls (6-2). Jay Wright's team fell to 5-4. 

Michigan State, led by 34 points from Draymond Green, got an impressive road win at the Kennel against Gonzaga.  

Notes:

Ohio State's Player of the Year candidate Jared Sullinger sat out the game at Kansas and a much-anticipated matchup with Jayhawks big man Thomas Robinson due to back spasms. 

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor played in the win against Ohio State with a torn MCL. Taylor is set to have surgery on Sunday and is expected to miss a couple weeks. 

Arizona freshman guard Josiah Turner returned from a one-game suspension and played 17 minutes in a win over Clemson. Turner had six points, six rebounds, five turnovers and one assist. 

Marcus Jordan, Michael's son, was suspended for Central Florida's two-point win over Bethune-Cookman. 

Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper finished with a triple-double (14 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds) in a win at Portland late Saturday night.  

Northern Arizona defeated Cal State Bakersfield in the Lumberjacks first game following the sudden resignation of coach Mike Adras. Dave Brown, 70, took the reigns on an interim basis. 

Texas A&M's top scorer, Khris Middleton, returned after missing the last seven games with a knee injury and finished with 24 points.  

On tap: 

It's a fairly lackluster Sunday. Here are the top three games: 

1) Murray State at Memphis, 6 p.m. ET - The Racers have one of the nation's underrated point guards in Isaiah Canaan and could pull off the upset. 

2) Iona at Marshall, 2:30 p.m. ET - Two of the nation's top mid-major teams this season. 

3) Detroit at Alabama, 6 p.m. ET - Ray McCallum Jr., (aka Little Ray) goes up against an athletic Crimson Tide squad that will likely fall out of the Top 25 after a loss earlier this week. 

Photo: AP

Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 8:31 pm
 

Indiana's win worthy of Crean celebration



By Jeff Goodman

Tom Crean can celebrate however he wants after this one. He could be yelling and screaming buck naked in the lobby of Assembly Hall and it would be fine with me (OK, I take that one back).

I mocked the Indiana coach last season after he went bananas in the lobby of Assembly Hall following a home victory over Illinois. However, Saturday's victory against top-ranked Kentucky? Well, that's worthy of a full-pledged party well into the night for Crean and the Hoosiers.

This may wind up becoming a defining moment for the Indiana program in the Crean Era - one that had some fans and many around the country questioning whether the Hoosiers would be nationally relevant again.

Kentucky was more talented at every single position on the court, but Indiana took control of the game in the second half, and after blowing a 10-point lead, got a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Christian Watford for the 73-72 upset.

The Hoosiers showed mental resolve.

This Hoosiers team has officially turned the corner. They hadn't really beaten anyone of note until now (Butler and N.C State don't quite count), but should make their way into the Top 25 for the first time since Kelvin Sampson was running things and making illegal phone calls in Bloomington.

It was nice to see Assembly Hall rocking again because the fans in Bloomington are rabid - and are deserving of success. Indiana doesn't blow you away, but now Crean has enough talent and experience to compete with the big boys.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however, and start proclaiming the Hoosiers as a clear-cut NCAA tournament team. The Hoosiers aren't going to challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten title. They remain undefeated, but still need to fare well in Big Ten play to ensure themselves of dancing come March.

Watford doesn't always show up, but it was Kentucky's Terrence Jones who played the role of the magician on Saturday, doing his best disappearing act with just four points and a lone rebound in the contest. Watford went for 20 points in the victory while freshman Cody Zeller, Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls all played well.

Crean has had a rough go thus far in his tenure, finishing near the bottom of the league each of his three seasons. Recruiting has certainly picked up in the past year or so and Cream got over one hurdle when he took down Butler's Brad Stevens last month. But this one was far more important.

Crean knocked off the No. 1 team in the land. The almighty John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

If that's not worthy of a party, I'm not sure what is.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: December 8, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 10:25 am
 

Freshman of the Year: Davis sits atop rankings



By
Jeff Borzello

We’re now one month into the season, so it’s time to start taking a look at all the best freshmen in the country – not just the top 20 players in the class of 2011 as we’ve been doing. From now on, we will be ranking the top 10 freshmen in the country in order to determine who’s where in the Freshman of the Year race. We will also mention a few other guys to keep an eye on throughout the season. It will be released on Thursdays, in conjunction with Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s Player of the Year column.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky: He might not have the best scoring numbers of any freshman, but he’s a tremendous rebounder and he’s going to set plenty of shot-blocking records.

2. Cody Zeller, Indiana: Zeller is doing a little bit of everything and is the primary reason the Hoosiers are off to an 8-0 start. How will he handle going against UK’s fresh faces on Saturday?

3. Brad Beal, Florida: Beal might have been No. 1 if not for his struggles the past two games. He shot 6-for-18 in his last two contests, totaling 16 points. Rebounding very well for his position.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: Might be the best all-around frosh in the country; he just does so much at both ends of the floor. Had the most impressive performance in the UK-UNC game.

5. Austin Rivers, Duke: While people continue to nitpick at his weaknesses, Rivers just continues to score. Averaged 17.3 points per game against Ohio State, Kansas and Michigan.

6. Quincy Miller, Baylor: Miller missed one game with an injury, and has also seen his minutes and opportunities decrease since Perry Jones III became eligible. Still finding ways to score.

7. B.J. Young, Arkansas: Young has been very efficient, shooting 50 percent from both the field and from 3-point range. He had five 3-pointers and 28 points against Connecticut.

8. Moe Harkless. St. John’s: It’s only fitting that the player who started St. John’s recruiting class is playing the best so far. Harkless has back-to-back double-doubles, and is blocking shots.

9. LaDontae Henton, Providence: Perhaps the most surprising freshman in the BCS conferences. In his last four games, Henton is averaging 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds – in 38.5 minutes.

10. Justin Edwards, Maine: We might use this spot to highlight under-the-radar guys. Going into Wednesday, Edwards was the top freshman scorer in the country, averaging 20.2. He also was picking up 3.2 steals, second overall nationally.

Notes:

  • Keep an eye on Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright. Through two games, he’s averaging 18.5 points and 4.5 assists – can he keep that up?
  • In addition to Edwards, there are some other high-scoring frosh to watch from smaller conferences. Central Connecticut State's Kyle Vinales was averaging 20.0 heading into Wednesday. Niagara’s Juan’ya Green is averaging 19.5 per game, while Campbell’s Trey Freeman (17.0) and UNC-Wilmington’s Adam Smith (17.9) are also lighting it up.
  • If Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant continues to play like he is, we might have to consider a redshirt freshman for the list. He’s averaging 14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
  • The best rebounding freshmen not on the list are Louisville’s Chane Behanan (8.9) and Virginia Tech’s Dorian Finney-Smith (9.4). Behanan could make the list soon.
  • Other ones who just missed include Trey Burke (Michigan), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Myck Kabongo (Texas), Tony Wroten (Washington), Rodney Hood (Mississippi State), Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech), Thomas Gipson (Kansas State) and Kendall Anthony (Richmond).

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: December 7, 2011 4:36 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:37 pm
 

Podcast: This one is lacking in holiday cheer

By Matt Norlander

It's Wednesday, so that means Goodman and Parrish are back on the podcast. Parrish saw Jay-Z and Kanye Saturday night, so we have to lead our show with how the show everyone's talking about. Playing the same song eight times in a row? That apparently happened.

After the music gabbing, its on to the hoops, of course. Ben Howland refusing to kick Reeves Nelson off the team, Marquette's ability, Missouri as an elite team, Goodman and I yelling at each other about Marcus Denmon. Oh, this is a good one, indeed. Then there's the Big Ten/Big East debate, which is increasing (we're totally responsible for this).

Sorry this one was late -- had to get our ducks in a row in order to get the three of us on at the same time. We think it's worth it, though.

While we watch the throne:
  • From the beginning: A full review of the Watch the Throne show Parrish was at.
  • 5:20: So, about that whole Reeves-Nelson-still-on-UCLA thing ...
  • 8:54: Goodman was at MSG for the Jimmy V Classic. He's got a hotel story first before we get to the hoops.
  • 11:37: Phil Pressey and Missouri. And Goodman gets angry at me! CONFLICT!
  • 16:10: Goodman writes about Marquette's lack of talent. I disagree. And so we fight a little more. We're both on about a combined seven hours of sleep, so it got a little ornery.
  • 20:50: It's December, in case you hadn't heard. This is the slowest time, the next three weeks, of college basketball. Storylines come in smaller supply, the meaningful matchups aren't as much there due to finals, the holidays and the lead up to conference play.
  • 24:29: The most under-the-radar team in a major conference right now: Kansas State? Goodman talked with Frank Martin this week.
  • 26:25: Big Ten/Big East/Big 12 talk. Oh, and Goodman chirps at Parrish about Thomas Robinson. This was just an awesome podcast for bickering.
  • 31:47: Wrap-up chat and miscellaneous talk. Goodman and I make nice again, which is good, because I'm kind of terrified of the guy when he gets angry.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.


Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 9:40 am
 

Podcast: This one's all over the place

By Matt Norlander

Jason McIntyre has built up the most successful independent sports blog in Internet history. He runs TheBigLead.com. He also happens to be a fanatical college hoops fan.  (Fun fact: I did a couple of hoops posts for TBL back in '08, and almost became a freelance writer on the site until he greedily and rightfully wanted to take on that endeavor himself prior to the '09-10 season. Now look who's coming on whose podcast.)

In what's one of the more fun podcasts we've had so far, Jason and I go back and forth on a number of topics. Some hoops, some not -- the whole thing really flies by. The man's got his opinions; his polarity is what's made his blog a must-read on a daily basis for so many. And why he's well over 31,000 Twitter followers.

It was a pleasure to finally get Jason back on after a glitch in the recording of a previous podcast prevented it from publishing. It's good to step outside the realm of talking strictly hoops and go after some other subjects, and we do that here.

The roundup:
  • From the beginning: Introducing Jason to the podcast.
  • 2:50: Coach K and Pat Summitt earned the Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year. Right choice? And did you ever notice how SI, in retrospect, almost always picks the right person for this?
  • 4:45: All thoughts on UNC-UK, and why the argument being propped up against a title game rematch in hoops (like LSU-Alabama in football) is beyond foolish.
  • 9:40: Lots of draft talk/potential here. Barnes, Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, Perry Jones, Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Brad Beal, plenty more. Looking big picture can be fun, even if it's early.
  • 15:55: NBA draft and the age limit.
  • 18:45: Tables get turned on me, and J-Mac tosses some questions my way. We talk about media-type stuff, and he fluffs CBSSports.com up and mentions the big hires we've made. I was completely awkward talking about this, but it's that kind of awkward energy that I know you're looking for when you tune in. There's also talk of how we do what we do here at the blog, the method behind it, etc. 
  • 28:04: The college basketball season is one month old, and here's the big debate. Big Ten the best conference? I think so. McIntyre says the Big East. And he hates tempo-free stats. And Wisconsin. Oh, yes. It's about to get ugly up in this piece.
  • 35:09: How can someone be a fan of Syracuse and Georgetown? Listen as McIntyre tries to persuade you.
  • 38:50: Our favorite announcers in the game wraps up the chat.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.


Posted on: December 3, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 2:16 pm
 

UK vs. UNC lives up to all the hype -- and more



By Jeff Goodman


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Almost always, these games don't live up to the billing. This didn't -- it exceeded expectations.

It has been hyped all offseason as the No. 1 vs. No. 2. As it turned out, North Carolina came into the game fifth in the nation -- after a road loss to UNLV -- and it was Kentucky that entered with the top billing.

But it didn't matter.

The game was electric from the tip. Kentucky punched North Carolina in the mouth, taking a quick 9-2 lead. However, the Tar Heels responded and wound up taking a 43-38 lead into the break.

However, North Carolina also went into halftime with three fouls on star forward Harrison Barnes - who picked up his third with a little more than six minutes in the first half.

Then it was Doron Lamb who backed up his words in the second half.

Lamb, who less than 24 hours prior said that his team was more talented and the backcourt clearly had superior talent to UNCm had a couple of huge drives midway through the half - and then buried two mammoth 3-pointers to give Kentucky control.

North Carolina, after a missed free throw by Kentucky freshman Marquis Teague with 20 seconds left, had a chance to win the game on the final possession.

The play was designed to go in the post to Tyler Zeller, but ultimately ball wound up in John Henson's hands - who shot what appeared to be an uncontested 12-footer from the right side. Then the only guy in the country who could block Henson's shot, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, did just that to seal the win.

Kentucky 73, North Carolina 72.

I'm not sure I've seen a more riveting December game. Two teams loaded with pros -- in a crazy setting at Rupp Arena.

It was so entertaining, I want to see it again.

Maybe April 2.

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Kentucky's Lamb says 'Cats are more talented

By Jeff Goodman

LEXINGTON, Ky. - John Calipari delivered the message - over and over - about North Carolina's experience while Terrence Jones kept a stone-face while attempting to convey that this was just another game. Senior Darius Miller said all the correct things. 

Doron Lamb. 

He told the truth. No filter. No BS. 

"I think we're more talented offensively and defensively," Lamb said less than 24 hours before top-ranked Kentucky welcomes North Carolina to Rupp Arena.

And what about the two backcourts, Doron?  How do you think they stack up against one another?

"I think we're way more talented," he said. 

I wonder if Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland will get a look-see at those comments when they arrive in Lexington. 

Unlike Jones and even Miller to an extent - who both downplayed the significance of this game - Lamb spoke the truth. To be honest, it's refreshing.

"It's a big game for us," Lamb said. "We want to try and keep our No. 1 spot." 

This was supposed to be a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. UNLV ruined that when the Running Rebels pulled the upset over North Carolina a week or so ago in Vegas. Now the Tar Heels enter the contest at No. 5 in the country, but the numbers don't matter. 

"You want games like this because they help you learn about your team," Calipari said. 

Calipari is all about spin, but that's not spin. 

No one is really going to care about who won this game if these two teams meet again in April 2 in New Orleans -- as many anticipate to be the case. Both teams will likely be No. 1 seeds entering the NCAA tournament come March and these two clubs will have a different look to them in four months time. 

This game is about figuring out your team's deficiencies and trying to correct - or at least - soften them. For North Carolina, it'll be whether they are able to defend and match Kentucky's toughness - among other things. For Kentucky, it'll be whether Marquis Teague can play with poise - and whether Terrence Jones truly is a different player from a year ago -- also among other things. 

Calipari and Roy Williams won't commit to continuing this series, using their league slate and other non-conference matchups as an excuse to halt the matchup. So this could be it for a while - so we need to enjoy it. 

"The moment I saw it on the schedule, I started looking forward to this game," Lamb said. "Everybody's been talking about it." 

Lamb and just about every diehard college hoops fan. You've got no shortage of potential lottery picks -- Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky and Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller with North Carolina - in addition to plenty of others with NBA futures. It'll take place in arguably the most electric environment in college basketball: Rupp Arena. 

It won't be a methodical affair as was the case in the previous game for both teams, when North Carolina had to grind one out against Wisconsin and Kentucky was forced to watch St. John's milk the clock in an effort to stay in the game. 

Williams and Calipari have athletes - and they let them go. 

This should be terrific. 

Any predictions, Doron?

"We win," he said with a smile. "And leave the arena by 3 p.m.. -- and then I enjoy my day off Sunday."  

Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Kentucky vs. UNC: A complete breakdown




By Jeff Borzello

It’s not No. 1 vs. No. 2, but it still features about 10 first-round picks and is certainly the “Game of the Year.” Of course, we’re talking about North Carolina vs. Kentucky, the showdown set for high noon in Lexington on Saturday.

North Carolina entered the season atop the polls, but a 10-point loss at UNLV dropped the Tar Heels back a bit. They haven’t played to their potential just yet, but there’s still plenty of time – starting Saturday. On the other side, Kentucky has looked every bit as talented as everyone thought they would be heading into the year. The Wildcats’ best win is over Kansas, but they could really send a message against UNC on Saturday.

With all the talent on stage, let’s go position-by-position.

POINT GUARD: Kendall Marshall vs. Marquis Teague

Two completely different point guards, both extremely talented in their own right. Marshall ranks second in the country in assists, notching at least 14 assists in three different games. The lefty doesn’t push the ball like a classic UNC point guard, but he moves the ball in transition with the pass. Teague is very quick and athletic, but he’s still adjusting to life as a college point guard. He has been taking care of the ball far better lately, but he can still improve his decision-making. EDGE: North Carolina

SHOOTING GUARD: Dexter Strickland vs. Doron Lamb

The two least-touted in the starting lineups, both play a key role nonetheless. Strickland is a very good defender who uses his length and athleticism to be effective in transition. He’s also the de facto backup point guard when Marshall goes to the bench. Lamb is one of the best 3-point shooters in the SEC, knocking down 48 percent of his outside shots this season. He’s also a solid distributor and playmaker who can go off the dribble. EDGE: Kentucky

SMALL FORWARD: Harrison Barnes vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Both were No. 1 high school prospects at some point in their career, and actually matched up as top prospects at the NBA Camp in 2009. Barnes has started better this season than he did last year, making a killing in the mid-range and also knocking down outside jumpers. Kidd-Gilchrist is a do-it-all player who makes things happen at both ends of the floor. He’s a very good defender who uses his strength go get to the rim as well. EDGE: North Carolina

POWER FORWARD: Tyler Zeller vs. Terrence Jones

An interesting contrast of players. Zeller is a back-to-the-basket scorer who has a variety of post moves and gets to the free-throw line on a consistent basis. He’s been up and down this year, not surpassing 12 points or seven boards in his last four games. Jones is playing some of the best basketball in the country, looking like a matchup nightmare for nearly every opponent. The lefty is excellent around the rim and in transition, but also has the ability to step out and knock down a three. EDGE: Kentucky

CENTER: John Henson vs. Anthony Davis

This is going to be fun. Two of the most athletic, longest big men in the country will go head-to-head with someone who can match up evenly. Henson is a tremendous shot-blocker, and is also a double-double threat every night out. He’s improved his offensive ability this season. Davis is the best freshman in the country and the sure-fire No. 1 pick for the NBA Draft. He’s an unbelievable shot-blocker as well, and uses his athleticism to make things difficult for opponents. He’s also excellent in transition, running the floor extremely well. EDGE: Kentucky

BENCH

Both teams have impact players coming off the pine. North Carolina uses future lottery pick James McAdoo on the inside. He’s athletic and can score in different ways. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are knockdown shooters with athleticism, although Hairston might miss the game with a sprained wrist. On the other side, Kentucky has experienced forward Darius Miller leading the way. He’s a former starter and can do a little of everything. Kyle Wiltjer is an inside-outside threat, while Eloy Vargas gives post minutes. EDGE: North Carolina (if Hairston plays)

KEYS TO THE GAME

North Carolina:

  • Putting Strickland on Teague – Marshall won’t be able to keep up with Teague, but Stickland is quicker and more athletic
  • Containing Jones – Zeller might not be able to guard Jones when he goes off the bounce, but can’t let Jones dominate
  • Perimeter shots – Kentucky has plenty of trees around the rim, but the Tar Heels need to open up the defense by knocking down 3-pointers

Kentucky:

  • Second chances – North Carolina is susceptible to offensive rebounds, while Kentucky has the athletes to get points off put-backs
  • Taking advantage of matchups – It remains to be seen if UNC can keep up with Kentucky in transition; the Wildcats need to push it
  • Perimeter shots – Like UK, North Carolina has shot-blockers at the rim. The Tar Heels don’t guard the 3-point line that effectively, though

BOTTOM LINE

There is going to be a ridiculous display of talent and athleticism on the floor come Saturday in Rupp Arena. There are interesting personnel matchups across the floor, as well as stars coming off the bench. John Calipari has his troops humming right now, while Roy Williams is still working out some of the kinks. Expect plenty of transition baskets and fast-break dunks. In the end, I think the home-court advantage could be enough for Kentucky – the Wildcats will continue to hit their stride.

Photos: US Presswire

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com