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Game Preview: North Carolina Tarheels

Another must-watch game will feature the young and entertaining Kentucky Wildcats as they travel south to Atlanta, Georgia for the CBS Sports Classic. Sitting at 7-2 and coming off a win against Penn with a full week of practice under their belts, the 'Cats look to pick up a resume-boosting top-ten win.

North Carolina has had a strong start to the year. Led by seniors RJ Davis and Armando Bacot, they are ranked number nine in the country with wins vs. Arkansas and No. 12 Tennesee while only having two losses coming from Villanova and No. 5 UConn. The Wildcats will be at basically full strength with the "hopeful" return of sophomore center Ugonna Onyenso. It is untold how much he will play and if he will even make a difference but depth will be much needed against valuable UNC post prescense. On top of that, Aaron Bradshaw will be a full-go in his third game with Kentucky alongside season-long starter Tre Mitchell.

North Carolina leads the all-time series over Kentucky 25-17, but in the Calipari era Kentucky has handled the Tar Heels at 7-4. There have been many great matchups in his tenure between these two storied programs. From John Wall's rise to Anthony Davis' block to Malik Monk's 47 point show, there has been nothing short of entertainment. I think there are many reasons to assume that Saturday's game could be much of the same with the talent these to teams possess.

The CBS Sports Classic started in 2014 and has always been between the four programs of Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina, and UCLA. All-time Kentucky is 4-5 in the event and looks to get back to .500 with a win here in 2023.

As they have the past couple years, North Carolina runs a lot of their offense through center Armando Bacot. He is averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds and has been dominant all year. A lot of people like to analogize him as UNC's Oscar Tshiebwe. Just a big-shoulder aggressive rebounder who will make you pay within 6 feet from the rim.

The keys for Kentucky are very similar to most games. They need to speed the game up and get out in transition. Even with Bacot, North Carolina has struggled defensively this year. We need to take advantage of that and speed the game up to keep them gassed and own the tempo. We also need to shoot 30+ three-pointers throughout this matchup. Even with having two seven-footers back, Kentucky cannot completely go away from their strengths. Putting up a high volume of points at a quick burst has factored in to essentially all of their wins this season. North Carolina averages 85 points a game and they score in bunches as well, so UK must compete against that. The Tar Heels scored 61 in the first half against a very good Tennessee defense, and the Vols were never able to put together a comeback. Even though in almost every game Kentucky has played in they have started the game slow, against North Carolina you cannot start to slow otherwise their pace of play will be the death of you.

Again, Kentucky and North Carolina have had so many amazing matchups over the years. Both of these storied programs have good teams this season and I expect this game to be just as close as many of the other ones in the past. But as long as the 'Cats stick to what they have been doing outside of the UNC-Wilmington game, I think they will put themselves in a position to win. The game will be the second leg of an Atlanta doubleheader and it will begin at 5:30 PM Eastern on CBS.


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