No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky
When: 5:05 p.m.
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.
TV/Radio: CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery). Internet live-stream: NCAA March Madness Live (NCAA.com). Radio: WTKK-106.1; SiriusXM channel 84.
Projected starting lineups
North Carolina (30-7)
G Joel Berry 14.7 ppg, 3.6 apg
G Theo Pinson 5.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F Justin Jackson 18.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg
F Isaiah Hicks 12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 12.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg
G De’Aaron Fox 16.8 ppg, 4.6 apg
G Malik Monk 20.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg
G Isaiah Briscoe 12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Derek Willis 7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F Bam Adebayo 13 ppg, 8 rpg
Three things to know
▪ The encore, the rematch: UNC vs. Kentucky, Part II
It’s as if the proverbial Basketball Gods weren’t satisfied with only one North Carolina-Kentucky game this season. And why would they have been, anyway? Kentucky’s 103-100 victory against UNC in Las Vegas on Dec. 17 left people wanting more (though maybe not the coaches). And so here we are, UNC and Kentucky sharing the stage again, this time with a trip to the Final Four at stake. The Tar Heels and Wildcats put on a show on offense the first time they played. It’d be difficult for them to replicate what happened in December, when both UNC and Kentucky shot better than 50 percent and, essentially, did what they wanted to do on offense. Four players in that game, two from each team, scored at least 23 points. Kentucky’s Malik Monk finished with 47. The game came down to the final possession, and final moment, when UNC’s Kenny Williams missed a 3-point attempt from the corner. When the NCAA tournament field was announced, this might have been the most anticipated game. Here it is.
▪ Another shootout, or more defense?
Or both? As well as these teams played on offense when they met in December, the defense was perhaps equally poor. Or was it? Both UNC and Kentucky prefer the same, up-tempo playing style, and the Tar Heels and Wildcats played especially well offensively. Remember, though, that it wasn’t as if the teams didn’t try to play defense. Isaiah Hicks played through foul trouble. Joel Berry and Kennedy Meeks both fouled out. Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo also fouled out. And so there was some defensive effort there – at least enough for several players to encounter foul trouble. The question on Sunday is whether the defensive production will be there, as well. Statistically, these are two very strong defensive teams. Kentucky is seventh nationally in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com; UNC is 19th.
▪ Scouting Kentucky
The Wildcats were arguably the most talented team in the country when they played against UNC in December. Not much has changed. Kentucky’s trio of 6-3 guards – De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe – are as good as anybody in the country, both individually and collectively. The Wildcats like to run, if you need a reminder of such things, and they’ll embrace the challenge of playing at the kind of fast pace that UNC desires. If UNC has a statistical advantage here, it’s in rebounding. The Tar Heels have been the best rebounding team in the country, and they rank first nationally there, according to kenpom.com. Kentucky, though, successfully neutralized UNC’s rebounding advantage during the first game. UNC rebounded 29.4 percent of its misses against Kentucky. That was the Tar Heels’ fourth-lowest percentage of the season.