With the end of the NBA Lockout this week, the players that will be most affected by the new labor deal will be showcased on Saturday as number one ranked Kentucky takes on number five ranked North Carolina.
At least five players in this game are likely to be NBA Lottery picks in the 2012 NBA Draft if they choose to come out early. This game was going to be a matchup between #1 and #2 until this past weekend, when UNC lost to an underrated UNLV in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
North Carolina: Despite the setback in Vegas this weekend, UNC would be foolish just to look ahead to their showdown with Kentucky. They have another tough task this week before playing the Wildcats. The Wisconsin Badgers led by their All-American Jordan Taylor visit Chapel Hill on Wednesday for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Coached by Roy Williams, North Carolina may have the best talent in the country. Sophomore F Harrison Barnes, who two seasons ago was the #1 recruit in the country, is as good as advertised.
[ad 6]A tireless worker, Barnes has improved his shot selection, and mid-range game to become the favorite for the Wooden Award which is the college basketball’s version of the Heisman. An injury suffered in the UNLV game makes Barnes questionable to go against Kentucky. He does not have to do it alone. His fellow frontcourt mates are Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Henson is the best interior defender in the country with his superior athleticism and length.
What impresses me about Henson is the way he runs floor. He fills the lane down the middle of the floor quite well and his ever improving offensive game is just another weapon in the arsenal for the Tar Heels. The floor leader of the Tar Heels is Kendall Marshall. He is an excellent distributor of the basketball. He knows how to find the open man. When needed he can knock down a spot up 3. UNC loves to get out and run. Marshall excels in the open court making great decisions with the ball as his nearly 11 assists game will tell you.
Kentucky: UK does not rebuild but they reload. Coach John Calipari is the best recruiter in the country. There is no shortage of talent in Lexington despite a laundry list of players who left early to enter the NBA draft. There are only 2 seniors on the roster for UK. Even though he has yet to win an NCAA championship, Coach Cal has his young Wildcats headed for a spot in the Final Four.
The Wildcats are led by F Terrance Jones. Jones, a sophomore, is a rare Wildcat who decided not to enter the NBA draft last year and return to Lexington. He is 6 foot 9 and can step out on the perimeter and hit a shot, or just be a beast down on the low block. Sophomore shooting guard Doron Lamb is a shooter. Shooting over 46 percent from 3-point range, Lamb can score in bunches.
Rounding out the starting 5 are members of the best recruiting class of this year. Marquis Teague is runs the show, Anthony Davis is a presence in the middle, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the type of player a coach will love with his competitive spirit and his ability to blow by defenders to get to the rim.
Analysis: I think this game will come down to a few things, the point guard position, experience, and coaching. Kendall Marshall was exposed in Vegas.
Carolina did a poor job of defending on ball screens which is surprising because Roy Williams is as good as it gets when comes to defending on ball screens. Marshall consistently let the PG from UNLV get into lane. Anytime a PG can get into the lane it spells trouble for your defense. If Teague gets into lane it will be a long day for Carolina as Kentucky does have some spot up shooters that Teague can find when Carolina rotates to protect the basket. Kentucky does not run many offensive set plays, with a team as athletic as Kentucky they like to use their athleticism to create mismatches.
I would expect to see Terrance Jones have a big game. Jones will probably be guarded by Henson with Davis being guarded by Zeller. Henson’s effectiveness on the interior will be diminished if he has to guard Jones out on the perimeter. I also think that experience will play a huge factor here. Kentucky is very young, while Carolina has a good mix of upper and lower classmen. This will be a huge test for the young ‘Cats but they did beat a very good Kansas team earlier this year and they do have the benefit of playing at Rupp Arena. With all this being taken into account, I am going to pick North Carolina. I don’t think that they are as bad defensively as they were in Vegas.
[adinserter block=”1″]Roy Williams is a better coach than Calipari in clutch situations. If you don’t believe me ask Memphis fans in the NCAA Championship game a couple of years ago. When talent is equal, the game will come down to coaching. Carolina will win by 5, 75-70. Come the first Monday in April, don’t be surprised to see a rematch with UK winning the National Championship.