Are Marquis Teague & Co. ready for the Tar Heels?
John Clay answered the headline question in an article yesterday in the Herald-Leader, and many UK fans won't like it:
After seeing a team as talented as Kentucky play a team as overmatched as Radford, it's a risky proposition making sweeping declarations.
That being said, let this be said: No. 2 Kentucky isn't ready for No. 1 North Carolina.
Not as of Nov. 23, anyway, the day the home-standing Cats rolled over the poor Highlanders 88-40 at Rupp Arena.
As evidence of the Wildcats' unreadiness, Clay cites the difficulty against Old Dominion zone and physical play, as well as some of the comments by Calipari regarding the tendency of Marquis Teague to leave his feet and the fact Anthony Davis needs to work on his post moves.
To be honest, though, this amounts to little more than hand-wringing, and I'll explain why after the jump.
I'm not sure it is even possible for two teams to be more evenly matched than this. In many years of examining statistics, I have only rarely seen two teams at this early juncture that appear to line up so nearly identically.
So from a statistical standpoint, I have to say that Clay doesn't look correct. No, Kentucky isn't better than UNC on paper, but they are way more than good enough right now. The teams have played similar competition so far, including one team in the top tier. Kentucky has played more top 100 teams. To me, there is almost nothing to separate them from each other.
The Wildcats aren't as disciplined as the Tar Heels, but the Tar Heels have been significantly less successful defensively than Kentucky against similar competition. The game is being played in Rupp Arena in front of a crowd of Kentucky partisans, so you have to figure that without some kind of edge, the Tar Heels are at a disadvantage. So far, they have not demonstrated that their greater experience overcomes Kentucky's youth in any game.
So I'll disagree with Clay to the extent that the Wildcats right now are approximately as ready as they are likely to be ten days from now. Kentucky will get better and arguably could improve more than the Heels will during that timeframe due to the fact that UK should have more low-hanging fruit to gather at this point than the older UNC team.
Kentucky never be completely ready, but I say they are ready enough right now.