Two of college basketball’s blue blood programs will face off in the Elite Eight on Sunday, in a game that is Final Four or National Championship worthy, when the Kentucky Wildcats clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Kentucky comes into Sunday’s contest off the heels of a Sweet 16 victory over the 3-seed UCLA Bruins by a score of 86-75. Before that, they defeated the (once again, vastly under-seeded) Wichita State Shockers and the Northern Kentucky Norse.
The 1-seed Tar Heels are fresh off of a 92-80 defeat over the 4-seed Butler Bulldogs on Friday night. The Tar Heels really dominated throughout the game, building a 52-36 lead at halftime. The Bulldogs cut it to 10 in the second half, but never really got back into it. Before that, the Tar Heels defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Southern Tigers.
This Elite Eight matchup will be a rematch of December 17 when the two met in arguably the best regular season game of this college basketball season, in which the Wildcats won on a late Malik Monk jumper by a score of 103-100.
Both teams have grown substantially since then, so I would expect a lower scoring game this time around. The Tar Heels now have 6’6 forward Theo Pinson, who was not available during the first meeting due to injury.
Kentucky will need to receive more production from their role players if they want to punch their ticket to Phoenix. In the first meeting, Derek Willis finished with only three points and one rebound, while Dominique Hawkins finished scoreless, playing only nine minutes. Kentucky will need big performances from those guys, as well as from big man Bam Adebayo, against a big and athletic Tar Heels squad looking to return to the Final Four.
The winner of this game will meet the winner of Kansas/Oregon in the Final Four. Here is everything you’ll need to watch and follow this matchup:
North Carolina Tar Heels (30-7, 15-3 in ACC) vs Kentucky Wildcats (32-5, 16-2 in SEC)
When: Sunday, March 26
Where: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
Game Time: 5:05 p.m. EST
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call.
Online and mobile streaming: The best places to watch online are at NCAA.com/MarchMadness or the NCAA March Madness Live app.
G - De’Aaron Fox, 6-3, Fr.
G - Malik Monk, 6-3, Fr.
G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, So.
F Derek Willis, 6-9, Sr.
F - Bam Adebayo, 6-10, Fr.
G - Joel Berry, 6-3, Jr.
F- Thon Pinson, 6-6, Jr.
F - Justin Jackson, 6-8, Jr.
F - Isaiah Hicks, 6-9, Sr.
F - Kennedy Meeks, 6-10, Sr.
Odds: UNC opened as a 2.5-point favorite. KenPom projected this to be a pick ‘em on a neutral court.
Prediction: KenPom projects this to be a true toss-up on a neutral court.