NBA Draft Watch: North Carolina at Kentucky Viewing Guide
North Carolina travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky in the season's headliner matchup between two of the nation's elite teams. If you're a fan, a scout or can only watch a few basketball games, make sure you're in the arena or near a TV for this one; this game will feature most of the 2012 NBA Lottery and several more first round talents. The list starts with the top two members of the 2012 NBA Draft Class - Anthony Davis of Kentucky (No. 1) and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina (2). Kentucky forward Michael Gilchrist (10) is followed by UNC power forward John Henson (11) and then Terrence Jones, the versatile lefty forward for the Wildcats. Three more Tar Heels close out our first round talents (James McAdoo, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall) and another two Wildcats for Kentucky (Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb).
Overview: John Calipari has plenty of new pieces at his disposal after losing Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson to the NBA Draft and once again (it seems like every year we say this, oh, wait, we do) he has the nation's top recruiting class to pick up the pieces. But he does have returning "veterans" Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller to lead and mentor Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. North Carolina, on the other hand, has nearly every player back from a year ago and very few new pieces to rotate in.
This game pits two of the very best frontcourts against each other that will test each team's and player's physicality, toughness and desire rebounding the ball and finishing shots around the rim with contact. UNC is coming off a grind game against Wisconsin, but you can bet that Roy Williams will have his team up and ready to play against Kentucky at Rupp Arena, where we must add, John Calipari is undefeated as the coach of UK.
Players To Watch:
#23 Anthony Davis, Kentucky
6-11, 245 pounds
13.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.9 blocks
The No. 1 prospect on our Big Board has gotten off to a quick start in his first season of college ball with his unique breed of size, athleticism, quickness and a tremendous wingspan. He covers immeasurable ground defensively swatting away shots and gathering rebounds, while on offense, he is a constant threat for put-backs and alley-oops from the backside.
Barnes is 100 percent the go-to scorer for the Tar Heels, especially from the outside. Now, he is not their best shooter, but he is effective enough to stretch the court and keep the defenses from doubling down on Henson and Zeller in the post. He injured his ankle in last week's loss to UNLV, but had an outstanding second-half against Wisconsin earlier this week. If his ankle is still bothering him, he cannot be as aggressive driving and slashing through the lane. His perimeter defense will be important to keep Kentucky's 3-point shooters in check.
#14 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
6-7, 230 pounds
11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals
This freshman forward is one of the toughest in the nation, who gives his all nearly every minute he is on the floor. He is still working to find his niche on this Kentucky team loaded with talent, but he will surely make his mark on this game by matching up with Harrison Barnes from the start. Offensively, Gilchrist tends to force plays to his strong hand (right) and has struggled with his mid-range jumper to date.
#31 John Henson, North Carolina
6-11, 220 pounds
14.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.3 blocks
Henson is to North Carolina what Anthony Davis is to Kentucky- a rim protector on defense, a giver of second-chances on offense and a threat to get out in transition for a momentum-changing dunk. His length and defensive prowess must be game-planned against for John Calipari's squad, but offensively, he offers very little, lacking true post moves or a mid-range jumper.
#3 Terrence Jones, Kentucky
6-9, 250 pounds
15.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
The lefty forward is a difficult force to matchup with because of his physicality down in the low blocks, but also his ability to step out and knock down the perimeter jumper, where he is 7-of-11 on the year from 3-point range. Defensively, he can body up bigger forwards like John Henson or matchup with Harrison Barnes on the perimeter. Watch to see if his mental lapses and decision-making get the best of him in his primetime game.
#44 Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
7-0, 250 pounds
13.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals
The versatile big man must stay out of foul trouble in guarding the much quicker and longer Anthony Davis and offensively, he must use his strength advantage to take the ball up front. He has a tendency to play a finesse game at times, which is evidenced as the biggest man on the floor on most occasions shooting .485 from the floor.
No, his field-goal mark is not a mis-print and that's a big reason why he is only averaging four shot attempts a game. His role isn't to fire from the outside. It's to create for the true offensive threats and he is one of the best in the country in doing so. But if the Kentucky defenses sags off on Marshall and dares him to shoot, things could get dicey, especially since UNC is down one of the best perimeter shooters to help stretch the floor.
Lamb is the near-forgot player on Kentucky as he was last year, but he is perhaps their most important outside of Anthony Davis. He has the ball-handling abilities and court vision to shift over and player point guard and the flat-out scoring abilities to be a threat off the ball. He is a sound decision-maker and shows a nice pull-up and soft tear drop in the lane.
#25 Marquis Teague, Kentucky
6-2, 190 pounds
10.7 points, 4.1 assists, 2.0 steals
This is a big game for Teague- he had 18 turnovers in the first four games combined, but just four in the last three. There are times when he just goes through the motions of the offense with no purpose- that's when he tends to make poor decisions and force the ball. But then there are other times where Teague runs the offense with sound precision, breaking off when he sees the holes in the defense. Which Marquis Teague will we see?
This could be a breakout game for McAdoo if either of the starting bigs Henson or Zeller get in foul trouble. He has an old-school offensive game that displays McAdoo's full use of fundamentally sound post game and finishing ability around the rim. Defensively, he will struggle if Kentucky's bigs bring him out to the perimeter and all of them are quite capable of doing so.