Five Keys to Victory for the Cats over the Heels

On Saturday it will be another match-up of college basketball royalty when Kentucky faces North Carolina.  The Cats and Heels will square off in Las Vegas in what will be an important resume game for each team come NCAA tournament time.  UNC is coming off a season that ended with a loss to Villanova on a last second shot in the National Championship game.  The Tar Heels lost Bryce Johnson and Marcus Paige who were key pieces but return virtually everyone else from that team.  Needless to say it makes them a very dangerous team once again this season.  Here are five keys to victory if the Cats hope to come away with a win over the Heels.

  1. REBOUND– Year in and year out North Carolina is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and it is no different this season.  They are exceptionally deadly on the offensive glass where they rebound nearly half of their misses.  The glass has been a spot that has given the Cats trouble this season which makes it all the more important in this game.  There is not much more demoralizing to a team than playing great defense and forcing a missed shot only to see the opponent get the offensive rebound and score.  In this game it will need to be more than a few players hitting the glass for UK, it has to be a concerted effort by the entire team.  Beat the Heels on the glass and it will be extremely hard for them to win the game.  Conversely if UNC dominates the glass it could make for a long night for Kentucky.
  2. GET BACK– The other hallmark of all Roy Williams’ teams is that they love to get out an run.  Made baskets by the opposing team are a fast break opportunity for the Tar Heels.  They fly up the court on offense as well as any team in the nation.  That is especially true of their big men who routinely beat their defender down the floor for easy baskets.  Limiting those easy scoring opportunities will be huge for Kentucky on Saturday.  Every player for the Cats will need to get back with a purpose on every defensive possession and most importantly Bam and the other Wildcat bigs.  Freshmen are notorious for falling asleep and not getting back so Cal has to hope this group will heed his warnings.
  3. ATTACK THE RIM– Despite the huge frontline that the Tar Heels have they are not an exceptional shot blocking team.  On the season they have blocked just 33 shots compared to the Cats 76 blocks.  That means the Kentucky guards can attack the paint with confidence.  Fox, Monk, and Briscoe are so hard to guard when they attack the rim aggressively.  The trio draws fouls and breaks the defense down when they drive the ball but make things far to easy when they rely only on jump shots.  If the Wildcats will take the attack right at the North Carolina front court it could cause a lot of problems for the Heels.
  4. BAM PLAY LIKE A BEAST– Bam has played well this season but has still not had a real break out game to show the dominant player that he can be.  With all of the talk about how good UNC’s frontcourt is this would be a perfect chance for him to bust out.  He is the player most equipped to help the Cats battle on the glass as well as give them an inside presence in the game.  If he is not much of a factor it will not bode well for Kentucky.  On the other hand if he could break out with a 20 and 10 type of game it would go a long way towards a Wildcat victory.
  5. WENYEN OR WILLIS HAS TO COME TO PLAY– With all I just said above about the importance of Bam he can not do it alone.  It would be great to get good games from both Wenyen and Derek but a good game from at least one of them will be crucial if the Cats hope to head back to Lexington with a win.  The main area that they need to play well in is on defense and rebounding the basketball.  Whichever player will do those two things on Saturday will be the player that Cal leaves on the floor.  If neither do the Cats will have an uphill battle to climb.

If the Cats hope to end up with a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament I believe they have to at least win either this game or at Louisville on Wednesday.  A loss in both games would be pretty hard to overcome.  Saturday will be a fun uptempo game that will reveal where the Cats stand and what they need to improve on as the season goes on.  Win or lose they will learn from it but BBN would sure like to get a win against the Tar Heels.

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