“The game” of the preconference schedule lost a little of its shine with Carolina’s surprising loss last weekend out in the desert to UNLV. However, don’t let the lack of official “#1 vs #2″ status fool you; this is as likely a Final Four preview as we’ll get all season. Both teams are loaded with NBA talent all over the floor, and both teams have the ability to get up and down the floor and push the score into the 80’s and 90’s. So who has the edge? Let’s dig a little deeper into this star-studded matchup for a wagering advantage.
Kentucky has the first obvious edge in that the game is going to be played in Rupp Arena. 22,000 in full throat urging on the Big Blue will be an absolutely electric environment. Emotion and intensity tend to fuel defensive efforts more than half-court offensive ones; and defensively, Kentucky is about as tough as it get nationally. So far this season, Kentucky is holding opponents to under 31% shooting from the floor, including an impressive 20 of 59 defensive effort against Kansas.
The big anchor to their defense is freshman Anthony Davis. The 6’11” shot blocker doesn’t have a height advantage on Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but he definitely has a strength edge. I think he will be able to push Zeller off the low block and limit the effectiveness of the half-hook Zeller usually goes to in the post. Terrance Jones on the wing is an excellent perimeter defender who will likely get tasked with tracking Harrison Barnes, and should be able to do so effectively, and Marquis Teague should be able to keep Kendall Marshall from turning the corner most of the game. As long as Kentucky can keep Carolina’s transition opportunities to a minimum, they should control the tempo and pace of the game.
Easier said than done, of course. North Carolina was ground to a halt in a hard-fought 60-57 victory over Wisconsin earlier this week, and should actually enjoy the quicker tempo (albeit with significantly more athleticism) that the Kentucky defense will present. They will need to knock down a bevy of jumpshots to hang in with the defensively tough Cats. And shooting is not the forte of this Carolina squad. Especially on the road in front of a rabid, enormous crowd.
These teams are pretty even personnel-wise. UNC has bigger names, Kentucky might have slightly bigger ‘bodies.’ The difference for me comes down to the crowd at Rupp Arena. Granted, the Tarheels have faced a few stiff challenges this season while Kentucky has faced only a less-than-excellent Kansas squad – but the Heels haven’t seen anything close to the athleticism or depth that the Wildcats are going to bring tomorrow afternoon.
I like Kentucky laying the five points in an impressive introduction for freshman Marquis Teague, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd- Gilchrist, as well as a chance to enter the mix as a National Player of the Year candidate for sophomore Terrance Jones.
***IMPORTANT: Make sure you enter your details in the form at the top of this page to get updated with our WINNING college basketball and all football picks***