Kentucky and North Carolina were already in Las Vegas when COVID-19 forced their respective opponents to drop out. Instead of the Wildcats locking horns with Ohio State and the Tar Heels taking on UCLA, Kentucky and UNC agreed to take on each other.
While the No. 21 Wildcats will miss out on an opportunity to play the No. 15 Buckeyes, having UNC available provides college basketball fans with a chance to see two blue bloods go at it.
The Wildcats are 7-2 but are still in search of a signature win. Kentucky had a seven-game winning streak snapped on the road against Notre Dame last Saturday. The Wildcats will be eager to prove themselves, as they are 0-2 against Power 5 opponents. UNC had a signature win over then highly-ranked Michigan early in December.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series 25-16 but haven’t fared well against current Kentucky coach John Calipari. Calipari has a 7-4 mark against UNC.
Are the Wildcats who we thought they were?
After a season-opening loss to Duke, Kentucky returned home to Lexington and featured on cupcakes for a few weeks before heading back on the road.
Following a loss to a mediocre Fighting Irish squad, Kentucky is trying to refocus on what made it such a tough out. The Wildcats rank first nationally in rebounding margin, outrebounded their opponents, grabbing 16.33 more per game on average than their opponents.
West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe has been a major factor on the glass for Kentucky. Tshiebwe leads the country by averaging 14.4 rebounds per game and has recorded seven double-doubles.
Where Kentucky’s offense has stagnated is from the perimeter. The Wildcats have only made 5.8 3-pointers per game and shot 30.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Tar Heels Showing Signs of Major Improvement
UNC has collected five victories in a row, and with a win over Kentucky, would likely vault into the top 25 next week. The Tar Heels have been able to put up points with a dynamic, efficient offense. UNC ranks seventh in the county in 3-point percentage, knocking down 40.9 percent of its attempts.
The Tar Heels are averaging 80.4 points per game. UNC has averaged 80 or more points per game since the shot clock era began during the 1985-86 season. Caleb Love has been a dynamic player for the Tar Heels, leading the time in scoring (16.2 points per game) as well as assists, 3-pointers, and steals.
But during its recent winning streaking, the Tar Heels haven’t been letting their opponents score points. No opponent has scored more than 63 points on UNC during its winning streak, and its opponents have been averaging 58 points per game.
Battle-tested Tar Heels will be ready for Kentucky
North Carolina’s offense makes it a better fit for handling the sudden scheduling change that the pandemic forced on both programs. Kentucky not being able to effectively shoot 3-pointers will make it difficult to keep up with the Tar Heels.
Bet UNC on the moneyline to continue its current winning streak and assert its position as a top-25 team.
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