This is the offical A Sea of Blue Open Game Thread for Kentucky Wildcats versus the North Carolina Tar Heels. This game is one of the early-season big team matchups that tends to tell us a lot about the current state of both teams.
Unfortunately, North Carolina is coming in to this game pretty banged up. Tyler Hansbrough is recovering from some pre-stress fracture issues, Marcus Ginyard is unavailable, and Bobby Frasor is questionable. Still, the Tar Heels have a ton of talent available to pull from, and their bench is deep and wide.
Coming off the unfortunate loss to VMI, it is hard to judge the state of the Wildcat psyche right now. I have no idea what to expect out of this team tonight -- they could either upset UNC or get crushed by thirty. One thing is for sure -- if they let the Tar Heels run up a 20+ point lead on them in the first half like the Keydets did, Kentucky fans will be in for a long and disappointing night.
But unlike the Keydets, North Carolina is very much a conventional basketball team, and the matchups aren't that bad for Kentucky except at point guard, as I pointed out in my pre-game analysis below. Kentucky's front line matches up very well with the Tar Heels, particularly with Hansbrough on the bench. That gives me hope for this game, even though the 'Cats are a long shot to win.
Five things the 'Cats need to do to pull the upset:
- Score -- North Carolina can really put the ball in the basket, and if the 'Cats want to have any chance to win, they must find a way to do it also.
- Limit turnovers -- the easiest way that Kentucky can gain an advantage on the 'Heels is to win the turnover battle.
- Attack the rim -- Kentucky has a lot of players capable of taking the ball to the hole. Good things happen when you put pressure on North Carolina's defense.
- Get the ball to Patterson in the post -- Patrick Patterson has started a bit sluggish, but you can bet he will be up for this game. Get him the ball and watch him do damage.
- Rebound -- UK has a real size advantage, and needs to exploit it. Outrebounding the Heels is a path to victory.
Five things the 'Cats can do to give Carolina an easy night:
- Empty possessions -- If the 'Cats aren't efficient on offense, the Tar Heels will run away and hide.
- Tentative defense -- Kentucky's main weapon is a lot of long, strong athletes capable of great defensive pressure. If they don't assert themselves on defense, they will have to hope the nation's most powerful scoring team has an off night, and odds are they won't.
- Run too much -- One lesson Kentucky should have learned from VMI is that you can't let your opponent control the pace. UNC is comfortable at a very high pace, so Kentucky must force them to adjust to a slower tempo.
- Foul excessively -- Kentucky's bench is talented, but inexperienced, and UK doesn't want UNC deep into it.
- Surrender offensive rebounds -- UK can't afford any, but they will give up a few. There will be a fine line between a few and too many.
This is a game many of us have both dreaded and looked forward to since Friday. These 'Cats have to prove that they are capable of bringing Kentucky back to prominence, and defeating the Tar Heels would be a great beginning.