Saturday plays host to the long-awaited matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Kentucky at #6 and North Carolina at #7, the two top-10 teams will go head-to-head in Las Vegas in the CBS Sports Classic. Here is how the Wildcats can attack the weaknesses of the Tar Heels in advantage for a Big Blue Nation victory.
The three-headed monster of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe is averaging a combined 51.1 points per game, by far the most of any trio in their conference. Though they only shoot 25% from 3-point range as a group, they are highly efficient overall from the floor, making 49% of the shots they take. The guards also combine to average almost 12 assists per game, creating quality opportunities for their big men inside. With Joel Berry questionable to play later today, if Kentucky’s guards can keep their elite play alive, I like the Wildcats to convincingly win the guard matchup.
Bam. Edrice Adebayo has come on strong late, averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in his last five games. Though senior forward Derek Willis has faced a shooting slump to start the season, he has quietly averaged seven points and four rebounds in just 18 minutes a game. Wenyen Gabriel has seen increased playing time with the Willis slump, averaging 20 minutes and producing seven points and six rebounds on the year. With Willis and Gabriel able to stretch the floor, Adebayo should see plenty of opportunities to control the offensive and defensive glass.
Kentucky is recognized as one of the deeper teams in the country and rightfully so, considering 10 players see at least 10 minutes of game action. Their size off the bench has been their strong suit, rotating five big men (Adebayo, Willis, Gabriel, Isaac Humphries and Sacha Killeya-Jones) who stand at an average of 6’10. While they only bring two guards off the bench for more than ten minutes a piece, one (Dominique Hawkins) happens to be one of their best defenders while the other (Mychal Mulder) is their second best shooter. The ten man rotation gives Calipari flexibility if foul trouble or fatigue becomes an issue.
Overall, I see Kentucky executing against North Carolina’s lack of starpower at guard, their inability to stretch the floor with their big men and their inability to go body for body with the Wildcats. Kentucky wins convincingly by dominating the transition game, limiting UNC’s offensive rebounds and being more efficient from behind the 3-point arc.