The two blue-blood programs are no stranger to one another, with 37 total meetings between the number one and number three winningest programs in Division I Basketball.
UNC holds the 23-14 lead over Kentucky in the series history. Since John Calipari took over at Kentucky, he is 4-2 against UNC.
The Tar Heels return several players from last year’s National Runner-up squad, including Justin Jackson (15.5 ppg), point guard Joel Berry (14.8 ppg, 4.7 apg), and Kennedy Meeks (12.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
The Tar Heels have played two teams ranked in the top 25 this season, defeating Wisconsin and losing to Indiana.
One thing to keep an eye on is the health of Berry. He has been out with an ankle injury and his loss has shown how important he is to the Tar Heels in narrow victories over Davidson and Tennessee.
While Berry’s numbers are not eye-popping, he does a great job of making those around him better. That’s why we should expect him to go Saturday in such a big game for both teams (he is now expected to play).
“I would expect (Berry to play) just because of the type of competitor he is," Jackson said Thursday. "I mean he has had quite a lot of time off to get that ankle right but I guess we will see how he’s doing. He seems like he is pretty upbeat about playing but we’ll see. We will come out and practice today and see what coach says.”
If Berry is not available or not 100 percent for the matchup against Kentucky, the Wildcats will have more of an advantage as UNC will rely on true freshman Seventh Woods and senior Nate Britt to handle point guard duties.
The other thing to watch is the frontcourt matchup. North Carolina’s frontcourt has shown to be one of the better ones in the country with seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, as well as freshman Tony Bradley leading the charge.
If Bam Adebayo, Issac Humphries, Wenyen Gabriel, Derek Willis, and the rest of the Kentucky bigs can hold their own in the paint and on the glass against one of the top rebounding teams in the country, I think Kentucky has a good chance to leave Vegas with an impressive victory over a Tar Heels team that could very well be playing late into March or in April.
North Carolina Tar Heels (10-1) vs Kentucky Wildcats (9-1)
When: Saturday, Dec. 17
Location: T-Mobile Arena (18,000) in Las Vegas
5:45 p.m. ET CBS moved the game time to 5:30 p.m. EST
Channel: Channel 27 in Lexington.
Live Online Stream: CBS Sports
Announcers: Brad Nessler, Bill Rafery and John Schrifen
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt
Satellite Radio: Sirius - 84 | XM - 84
Live stats: UK Athletics
Odds: UK opened as a 5-point favorite, but the line is now even as of Saturday morning.