By RICHARD CHEEKS
There is no question that when it comes to the Blue Bloods of College Basketball, North Carolina and Kentucky are in that very small, elite group. Each of their programs have demonstrated success over the last many decades, since the late 1940’s for the Cats and at least since the 1950s for the Tar Heels. Whenever these two programs collide, whether in the regular season or in the post season, all fans of college basketball revel in the prospects that the matchup provides.
These programs first played in 1924 and again in 1929, with UNC winning both of the pre-Rupp games. When Coach Rupp arrived, they met in 1932, after which the series took a length hiatus with only one meeting, in 1950, until the teams resumed regular games in 1960.
They played 15 times in 1950 and between 1960 and 1977, with UNC winning 9 of those matchups. From 1977 to 1990, the teams met 4 times (1982, 1990, 1991, and 1995) with the Tar Heels winning all four times. From 2001 through 2015, there were 15 games, with the Cats winning 8, and since Coach Calipari appeared on the scene, the Cats have won 4 of 6 times these teams have appeared together. UK leads 8-6 in games played in Lexington, and UNC holds a 6-2 advantage for games played in Chapel Hill. UNC holds a commanding 22-8 advantage in games played at neutral locations.
These great, proud programs will face off again on Saturday, this time in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, and based on how these teams have opened their 2016-17 seasons in preparation for this encounter, this should be a great game between two of the best teams in the nation this season. A was of the Blue Bloods, pitting Kentucky’s Big Blue against Carolina’s Sky Blue.
UNC enters the game with a 10-1 overall record (9-1 against D1 opponents) while the Cats come to Las Vegas sporting a 9-1 record. North Carolina’s only loss came at #14 Indiana by 9 points while the Cats’ only loss occurred at Rupp Arena at the hands of #10 UCLA by 5 points. The Cats’ most impressive win this season was over #42 Michigan State by 21, but the pole-axing the Cats handed to #88 Arizona State by 46 points provides a credible footnote to the overall record.
North Carolina’s most impressive win was over #8 Wisconsin by 15, but their 2 point win over #76 Tennessee last Sunday also provides a cautionary footnote to the Tar Heels overall record.
North Carolina enters this game with an ANE of 0.306 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0502 ppp. The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.319 ppp against a strength of schedule of -0.0057 ppp. The ANE analysis indicates a UK win by 1 point, 80-79 at a pace of 79 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.009 ppp and 0.997 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in UK’s favor by 1 point, 83-82 at a pace of 79 possessions.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: