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Kentucky Wildcats (10) @ North Carolina Tar Heels: Open Game Thread

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Does it get any better than this?

The Kentucky Wildcats go on the road today to the Dean Dome to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, two basketball powers going toe-to-toe with young, talented players. This is going to be a beauty.

Particulars are as follows:

Kentucky @ North Carolina
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | North Carolina Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Sat., Dec. 4, 12:30 p.m. ET
Coverage TV: CBS
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio
Text Updates
Location Dean E. Smith Center
Chapel Hill, N.C.

It's always tough to go on the road and get a win, particularly when you are heading into the heart of Tobacco Road to take on one of the most storied teams in the nation. Every year that this series continues is one more great chapter to a rivalry that goes back into antiquity, and the great players that have passed through this frequent meeting of powers is legendary.

Today's game is likely to revolve around who does the best job taking care of the basketball. In the last game against the Boston U. Terriers, Kentucky forced 8 turnovers in the second half en route to a blowout win. The Tar Heels have had trouble taking care of the basketball all year, and if Kentucky can force the Heels to turn it over at 25% or more of possessions, the path to a Tar Heel victory becomes tricky.

For Kentucky, offensive rebounding will be the problem. Carolina has a number of talented big players to throw at the Wildcats' thin front court, and if they are able to get UK's big guys like Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas in foul trouble, the Wildcats could be in tough here.

What the Wildcats need to win:

  • A fair whistle. There is legitimate concern that this game could deteriorate into a foul-fest because of the youth and aggressiveness of these two teams, and that favors the Tar Heels.
  • The Dribble Drive Motion. If Brandon Knight & Co. can play the DDM the way it is designed, North Carolina will have lots of trouble handling Kentucky. UK is a better 3-point and 2-point shooting team, and the DDM, if run correctly, will get the players good looks.
  • Post defense. Tyler Zeller and John Henson are both very capable post players, and UK must try to force UNC to take more perimeter shots than they want.
  • Offensive rebounding. Beating UNC on the offensive boards will be a major challenge, but if Kentucky can do it, they have a great shot at winning.
  • Maturity beyond their years. Youthful mistakes have plagued the Wildcats at times this season, and the Tar Heels as well. Harrison Barnes, in particular, has been off to a slow start, but against the young Kentucky team, he will feel a lot more at home. The team that can best hide their youth is likely to win this game.

What the Wildcats can't afford to do:

  • Get into foul trouble. North Carolina has much better quality depth than Kentucky.
  • Turn the ball over. The Wildcats have done a good job of taking care of the ball all year. They can't afford to turn it over in the Dean Dome.
  • Allow North Carolina to beat them off the dribble. The Tar Heels have several brilliant athletes, including Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Kendall Marshall. If they get to the rim a lot, fouls will pile up against UK and that will spell trouble.
  • Allow a lot of open looks at three. This UNC team has not shot particularly well from the perimeter, but that could change at any time. They have good shooters who can fill it up if they get open looks.
  • Be passive on the glass. North Carolina is bigger and more skilled inside than Kentucky. Big efforts from Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson on the glass will be needed to keep the Wildcats from losing the battle of the boards.

This is the biggest game of the early season, in my opinion, because it is a true road game against a talented team that could be a real factor in March. The Tar Heels have all the pieces, they are just lacking the experience and confidence to put it all together. Kentucky cannot afford to let them use this game as an opportunity to start a rebound from their slow start.

Go, 'Cats!