It should be no mystery to you that this Saturday there will be a showdown of basketball royalty – and I’m not talking about South Alabama at Louisville. No, this weekend we see the number one winningest program (Kentucky,) travel to the home of the number three winningest (North Carolina,) for a battle on the hardwood. So in case you haven’t been paying attention to the heels this year, here’s a quick run down of Cats-Heels (with plenty more to come before tip-off.)
UNC Record: 4-3. With the onset of another potentially disappointing year, this game seems to flip the script on the last few Tubby and the Gillispie years. One program on the rise, one program on the decline hoping they can pull off a win and be relevant again. Of course, UNC is far from irrelevant at this point (they started as a preseason favorite,) but if their current decline continues they will be soon enough.
Best win: Against 107-63 thumping of Hofstra. Maybe Hofstra isn’t the greatest program, but when your other choices for wins are College of Charleston, Lipscomb, and University of North Carolina-Asheville you don’t have many options. Plus the game against Hofstra was the last time a UNC team really looked like a Roy Williams coached team since Tyler Hansborough left campus.
Worst loss: It’s a toss up between Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Both only have one loss on the season, have mediocre statistics across the board, and neither have done too much this season (outside of beating the Tar Heels.) But as one team has a former Kentucky coach and the other has Colonel Sanders evil twin as a mascot, I’ll go with Vandy. Plus Vandy is in the SEC and apparently we are awful this year, so suck on that Roy.
Players you should know: There are three.
1.) Harrison Barnes. The pre-season player of the year favorite (might be exaggerating,) has been wholly unimpressive this year (might be a bit of hyperbole.) While it’s a bit early to be calling Barnes a disappointment, he certainly hasn’t taken over the way we have seen heralded freshmen do in the past – nor the way that many people believed he would. In their three losses, Harrison had 6, 11, and 8 points on putrid shooting. He certainly has talent, so writing him off may not be the best idea at this point, but at this point I wouldn’t expect him to be a major factor in any game until the ACC schedule. Look for pre-game comparisons between Barnes and Jones, but look for Jones to win that potential match up.
2.) Tyler Zeller. Probably the only real UNC player to be too concerned about, Cats fans shouldn’t worry too much because after all, he does things like this (not to mention how he gets his wrist broken by Ramon Harris.) However with the unpredictable front court that Kentucky has, Zeller (and Henson,) will likely be UNC’s best bet at going at Kentucky. Will his contributions be enough to help the Heels stay in the game? If they are going to win they will certainly need a lot of help from a big man who found himself in early foul trouble against Illinois, but it’s not outside the relm of possibilities. Unless of course, Enes is cleared and hops on the last plane out of Lexington to Chapel Hill sometime tomorrow. Start looking at flight records, people.
3.) Larry Drew II. I really only put him on here because it was funny to watch him get schooled by John Wall last year. I expect a similar storyline this year, Brandon. Don’t disappoint me.
Real Prediction: 82-69 Cats. Unless foul trouble plagues the True Blue, the Kentucky guards prove to be too much to handle for an equally shallow Heels team, and Vargas and Harrelson do enough to get the team rolling again.
Kanter Edition Prediction: 101-49 Cats. Enes Kanter makes Tyler Zeller tap out early in the first half on his way to 42 points in his college debut.