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North Carolina

UNC, Kentucky meet in clash of styles, reversed roles

Posted December 13, 2013

North Carolina's Marcus Paige during the Tar Heels' 87-77 title game loss to Miami in the 60th ACC Tournament on Sunday, March 17, 2013 in Greensboro, NC (Photo by Jack Morton).

— Fans have always used sports to represent their culture or style. Rooting for either Frazier or Ali in the 60s was supposed to say something about your politics, pulling for the Bad Boy Pistons or John Thompson’s Georgetown squad in the 80s meant you were cool and being a soccer fan in general seems to have a hand in whether or not you might be seen wearing a scarf.

With John Calipari’s arrival in 2009, Kentucky basketball has been a similar touchstone for much of the upheaval in college basketball’s One-and-Done era. If you’re not a fan of the Wildcats, you probably think the college game is going downhill fast. If you like Calipari’s squad, you probably own a Drake album — in digital form (and you probably didn’t pay for it).

Apart from the obvious narratives that are set when a Calipari-led team takes on an old-school coach like Roy Williams or Tom Izzo, there has been a bit of a role reversal from what might have been expected in the preseason.

If you had told Carolina fans six months ago that one of the teams in Saturday’s game would be dealing with lingering NCAA issues, a woefully inexperienced lineup and would come into the game with a couple top-three wins, they would have no doubt believed you — they just might not have suspected their own Tar Heels.

On the other hand, for once, it isn’t Carolina’s coach complaining to the media. Calipari sparked headlines in November for sulking about having to face veteran teams with his ultra-young players (though in his defense, he’s right, Kentucky has looked ultra-young against veteran teams). And it’s Kentucky that has been shaky against ranked opponents, while the Tar Heel’s depleted lineup has thrived in big-game situations.

For perhaps the first time in Calipari’s tenure in Lexington, the young coach seems tight, and playing not to lose. He’s been making excuses and hedging in press conferences the way old grumpy coaches like Jim Boeheim are supposed to, not sexy hot-shot coaches like himself.

For once, Calipari doesn’t seem cool.

And for once, it’s the old grumpy coach in Chapel Hill that seems loose right now. Maybe the loss of Leslie McDonald and PJ Hairston has removed the pressure of expectations, perhaps the totally random makeup of UNC’s roster has forced some adjustment, but for the first time - maybe ever - stubborn ol’ Roy seems to have relaxed his legendary hang-ups. Whether by choice or not, he’s tinkering with lineups and giving young players freedom rarely seen at Roy Williams’ UNC.

Of course, the freewheeling experiment in Chapel Hill has had its ups and downs (though one thing that isn’t new in Chapel Hill is inexplicable losses to unranked teams), but the result is clear: UNC is dangerous when they get rolling. And they know it.

As unexpected as Carolina’s wins over Louisville and Michigan State have been, it shouldn’t come as a total shock when you look at UNC’s history — the Tar Heels have beaten more No. 1 ranked teams than any other program — and the fact that both of those games were relatively high scoring. While most historical records are often nothing more than random outliers, there might be something to be said for how highly ranked teams have always approached Carolina.

The Tar Heels like to run; everyone knows this. Roy loves the up-tempo offense, and Dean Smith was no stranger to the fast break either. But the problem for opposing coaches is that their own players know it too.

Top-ranked squads with the confidence of a pedigree are going to try to run with Carolina; it’s almost inevitable. And even though they might have athletes who can get up and down the court, there simply aren’t too many programs that live and breathe the fast break to their core like UNC.

Some teams, while maybe even much more talented than a particular Carolina lineup, often find themselves in a situation they aren’t as prepared for as they thought. And in a twist, it’s the methodical mid-majors who never deviate from their game plan that seem to give Roy Williams the most trouble.

One might expect Kentucky’s swath of 5-star underclassman to fall into the same trap on Saturday, just like Louisville and Michigan State, and the Tar Heels couldn’t be happier if they did. But Calipari seems more reserved than he has been in years past, and less likely to just throw the ball out on the court for his blue-chip stars.

For both UNC and Kentucky, 2013-14 appears to be the year of the unexpected, with Carolina dominating preseason Final Four favorites and the hyper confident Calipari finally feeling some heat and showing some nerves. With the roles seemingly reversed, the only guarantee on Saturday seems to be a clash of styles, even if no one can be sure what those styles will be.

24 Comments

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  • baldchip Dec 13, 11:31 a.m.

    First-one and done needs to stop!! 3 years-like baseball is the answer!! Problem is that many basketball players will not make it academically for 3 years!!

    One and done has ruined college sports. It's all about the money FOR THE PLAYER!! Schools plunk down thousands of dollars for a kid to be in that spotlight for 1 year-develop, get some tv time, and gone to the NBA!! That's a raw deal for normal 4 year players, coaches, schools, and most of all-fans!!

  • Ken D. Dec 13, 11:32 a.m.

    I don't see this game turning out well for Carolina.

  • jhk0704 Dec 13, 11:41 a.m.

    I don't see this game turning out well for Carolina.

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Thats the exact same thing alot of people if not most people said before Louisville and Mich St.

    Go Heels!!!

  • CombatMed Dec 13, 11:54 a.m.

    I don't see this game turning out well for Carolina.

    — Posted by Ken D.

    First, jhk0704 is correct. No one had Carolina picking up wins against #1 and #3. However, if Carolina does drop one to Kentucky, they're still 2-1 against Top 11 teams so far. How's everyone else doing?

  • DeanWins Dec 13, 12:21 p.m.

    Dean Dome gonna be rocking at 5:15PM Saturday!!

    Another Nationally Televised Marquee Matchup for Da Flagship!!!!

    (5-star recruits pay attention to such.)

    GO HEELS!!!!

    #HEELBLOOD!!!

    WOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOT!!!!!

  • mike honcho Dec 13, 12:22 p.m.

    For the tarheels it seems motivation is the key factor, they have the talent and get up for big games ie; Louisville and MSU. Playing the unranked teams they looked flat against Belmont and UAB, they should have no trouble getting up
    for Kentucky and Calipari.....should be fun to watch.

  • 903 Hook em banned Dec 13, 12:29 p.m.

    I don't see this game turning out well for Carolina.

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Really? I think this is the best time to be playing UK plus it's a home game for unc. Cal's done a terrible job with this team and they are always still developing their chemistry this time of year. I wouldn't want to play them in March though.

  • DeanWins Dec 13, 12:30 p.m.

    Love the photo of Paige pointing to the assist man.

    Dean taught that, and Roy has carried through with the tradition.

    Placing Value on the assist, and Teamwork:

    The Carolina Way.

  • ABCers Partying Dec 13, 12:39 p.m.

    Only 51 players have left using the one and done rule since 2006. Most being from Kentucky with 8.

  • ABCers Partying Dec 13, 12:43 p.m.

    I don't see this game turning out well for Carolina.

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Really? I think this is the best time to be playing UK plus it's a home game for unc.... View More

    — Posted by 903 Hook em banned

    All teams are in the process of developing its talent, especially Carolina who had to develop a team with two of its top players not playing.

More...

 

 

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
Final
WAS 102
ATL 106
 
Final
MIA 97
GSW 114
 
Final
MIL 98
DET 86
 
4th
NOP 85
SAC 97
 
Half
DEN 56
CHI 49
 
Final
UMO 21
OHIO 24
 
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
ELON 74
MRGST 73
 
Final
MIZZ 61
PURD 82
Final
MAR 55
HAW 62
Final
UNF 77
LIB 57
 
Final
CHAM 85
BYU 121
Final
BUCK 58
MDES 55
 
Final
UGST 85
WCU 70
 
Final
UWGB 64
EVAN 62
Final
ARST 71
ALA 76
 
Final
OHIO 69
ARKPB 60
 
Final
UNH 75
BU 68
 
Final
OU 70
CHIST 57
 
Final
TOL 79
DET 82
 
Final
CLMB 57
FD 47
 
Final
QUIN 50
HART 54
 
Final
SFLA 71
HOF 70
 
Final
HARV 84
HOU 63
 
Final
BONA 79
JST 71
 
Final
STJOE 74
LIU 70
 
Final
SYR 70
GHND 37
 
Final
MLOWELL 102
MTIDA 57
 
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
Final
VT 54
NIOWA 73
 
Final
WOFF 82
OHVALLEY 54
 
Final
TEMPL 76
PENN 67
 
Final
RUTG 50
PETE 68
 
Final
BGU 62
SEMIZ 54
 
Final
LAS 73
Terriers 60
 
Final
UVA 79
TENST 36
 
Final
KENT 92
TXARL 44
Final
FSU 66
CITA 55
 
Final
PBY 63
TOCC 40
 
Final
COOK 56
TENNM 74
 
Final
WMARY 83
WILL 49
 
Final
USB 71
WKENT 61
 
Final
HIGH 88
WMPEACE 71
 
Final
SMU 72
ARK 78
 
Final
ARMY 80
BING 54
 
Final
CSOU 80
CARK 67
 
Final
UMBC 54
HOW 68
 
Final
ARZ 72
KYST 68
 
Final
OREG 63
VCU 77
 
Final
PSU 78
AKR 72
 
Final
SCST 92
CIU 55
 
Final
CREI 75
EILL 53
 
Final
ALAAM 61
JVST 67
 
Final
ABCHRIST 91
JCHR 65
 
Final
TXSA 57
LOYC 71
 
Final
NDST 64
MNCROOK 63
 
Final
NEB 80
NEOM 67
 
Final
VANDY 63
NORST 53
 
Final
STLU 57
NCAT 54
 
Final
MTST 65
NARZ 53
 
Final
TTU 75
NWST 64
 
Final
TULA 74
SOUTH 59
 
Final
ILLCH 87
STXAVIER 76
 
Final
TEX 78
RFLSH 46
 
Final
BRAD 52
TAMCC 38
 
Final
SMISS 72
TROY 70
 
Final
DRAK 73
IUPUI 60
 
Final
ARKST 58
LAM 63
 
2nd
FLGC 53
USF 29
 
2nd
COL 50
AFA 22
 
2nd
IDAHO 34
BSU 44
 
2nd
GRCN 37
BUF 49
 
2nd
ORU 31
LALAF 43
 
2nd
CHAR 47
MIAMI 57
 
Half
ISU 34
MD 37
 
1st
UMO 20
NW 21
 
1st
SACST 20
BRISTOL 15
 
1st
MICH 5
VILL 4
 
1st
SDST 4
PITT 2
 
11:00pm Tonight
USC
CSFU
11:00pm Tonight
STAN
DEL
Final
CLB 2
WIN 4
 
3rd
NAS 3
LOS 3
 
3rd
STL 2
OTT 1
 
2nd Intermission
DAL 3
EDM 1
 
2nd
ARI 3
COL 1
 
1st
ANA 0
CAL 0
 
1st
VAN 0
NJD 0