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Kentucky Wildcats (4) @ North Carolina Tar Heels (2): Open Game Thread

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Here we are again, Big Blue Nation. In the Elite Eight with our fifth shot at a Final Four in the last 12 years. It's time to break that string and get the job done. Today, the Kentucky Wildcats get a chance to do just that against traditional rival and fellow blue-blood, the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Game particulars, as follows, courtesy of

Kentucky @ North Carolina
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | North Carolina Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Sun., Mar. 27, 5:05 p.m. ET
Location Prudential Center
Newark, N.J.
Kentucky Seniors Video

These two teams go here by two distinctly different routes. Both teams have been challenged in the early rounds, North Carolina by the Washington Huskies, and Kentucky by the Princeton Tigers and the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Both are battle-tested and tough in the conference and conference tournament wars. This is a game between two teams at the pinnacle of their respective seasons, generally playing the best basketball they have played all year.

There is no getting around it, Wildcats fans. Kentucky may not have been expected to be here, but now that they are, they need to beat North Carolina. Even though UK is theoretically playing on house money, that all goes out the window when you face a major rival in a game with stakes this high.

Keys to a Kentucky victory:

  • Control the tempo. Kentucky can play either fast or slow, but North Carolina is affected by the pace. Given that fact, why would you play at their pace?
  • Rebound the basketball. UNC has two very long rebounders in Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and it will take great fundamentals to keep them from dominating the glass.
  • Attack Kendall Marshall. Marshall is the straw that stirs the Tar Heel cocktail, and Kentucky must disrupt him. If Marshall can be frustrated, the Tar Heels will have to get their own shots all day, and they aren't as good at that as Kentucky.
  • Take care of the basketball. UNC naturally turns the ball over more than Kentucky, and Kentucky will need an advantage in this stat to offset the size of the UNC big men.
  • Terrence Jones. Jones has been a non-factor on offense for so long, I often forget about him. If he can use his superior quickness against Henson, he could have a big game. But he needs to share the ball and not be the place where possessions go to die.
  • Avoid foul trouble. Kentucky was a bit lucky not to be in serious trouble against OSU. They don't want to tempt fate again.

Keys to a North Carolina victory:

  • Get the ball to Zeller and Henson close to the basket. If they do that, they can not only score, they can get Josh Harrellson and Jones in foul trouble.
  • Play blanket defense on Brandon Knight. If Marshall cannot guard Knight, the Tar Heels have to find somebody who can, or they'll be in big trouble.
  • Stay at home on the three point shot. Kentucky is a significantly better three-point shooting team than North Carolina, and UNC cannot afford to give the 'Cats open looks from the outside.
  • Draw lots of fouls. Kentucky has limited depth, so Barnes and Strickland need to use their quickness to get the ball into the paint.
  • Dominate the glass. Kentucky is shorter, but thicker. If UNC can play over the top of UK, they can hurt them on the offensive glass.

Huge game, huge consequences. As it should be. We all wanted this, and now we have it. Let's make the best of it.

Go, 'Cats!