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NCAA Regional Final: #2 UNC vs #4 Kentucky

What: NCAA East Regional Final
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
When: Sunday, March 27th, 4:55 PM
How They Got Here: UNC-at large bid; ACC regular season champion. UK-Automatic bid; SEC Champion
NCAA Results: UNC-def. #15 LIU, #7 WA, #11 Marquette. UK-def. #13 Princeton, #5 WVU, #1 Ohio St.

Just like 2007 and 2009, UNC will play the 5 PM game on the Elite Eight for an opportunity to advance to the Final Four. To get there the Heels will have to do something they have already done once this season and that is beat Kentucky. As a rule I don’t like rematching with a team you beat in the regular season. I know there are no stats you can turn to which prove anything one way or the other in this regard. It is just a feeling that the team who lost the game the first time out will be motivated to win the game that really counts. Then again, if there is one constant in NCAA Tournament play it is that previous results whether they be two days ago or three months back mean nothing. Unless it is UNC playing Michigan St.

Since we do have the previous game as a frame of reference it is interesting to note what might be different now. Looking at the box score of that game the one thing that jumps right off the screen is Kendall Marshall only played 10 minutes with three assists and three turnovers. Some Other Kid played the other 30 minutes at PG with seven points, four assists and two turnovers. Clearly the change at point guard makes UNC a different team and also means the Tar Heel team that shows up in the regional final will be quite different than the one in Chapel Hill. Add to that Harrison Barnes’ game elevating to the level we expected prior to the season, in part because of Marshall, then you have a team that has remade itself in some ways. However the one consistency between December and now is Tyler Zeller. In the first game Zeller 27 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. It was Zeller breakout game since he posted huge numbers against a quality opponent.

On the flip side, Kentucky got sub-par games from Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight while battling foul trouble among the Wildcat big men. In that game Kentucky hit nine three pointers on 21 attempts six of them by Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. Josh Harrellson was a non-factor due in part to the foul trouble. Since then Kentucky has taken an interesting path. While UNC had made a season on winning close games, Kentucky would routinely lose such games. Kentucky lost five straight games decided by three points or less before finally breaking through with a 68-66 win versus Vanderbilt. In NCAA Tournament play UK has won two close games including the regional semifinal versus Ohio St. where Knight hit the game winner. Harrellson has also become a major factor in NCAA Tournament play averaging 15.6 ppg and 9.3 rpg. Like UNC, Kentucky appears to be playing some of its best basketball in the Big Dance.

The key for UNC is the same as it has been for many games now. Pound the ball inside and see if Kentucky can land in the same type of foul trouble seen in the first game. Barnes could be the real X factor having become the first Tar Heel since Lennie Rosenbluth to score 20 or more points in three straight NCAA Tournament games. Everyone knows by now Barnes loves the big stage and outside the Final Four it doesn’t get much bigger than this. That also goes for Marshall, the ACC Tournament not withstanding. These guys live for big games. That is why I fully expect UNC to play a great game and Kentucky to do much the same. The problem I am having is this inescapable gut feeling that the Heels are not going to win this game. Perhaps it is the whole rematch issue that is bugging me. It just seems like this will be it.

Kentucky 74 UNC 70

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25 comments to NCAA Regional Final: #2 UNC vs #4 Kentucky

  • I will go with a UNC victory - UNC 74 - UK 68.

    KButta - “So focused, so ready.”

    Let’s Go Heels!

    The only comment I would make on the post, HB was having his first big game against UK and after 9 points in a row he was on the bench and thus cooled. I’m sure Cal won’t look past UNC.

    Lots of KY fans in Newark, we will be outnumbered from a crowd stand point. They were showing the UK swagger all night, Jim Beam and cigarettes in the bathroom stalls.

    “Now fly – fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!” - Wicked Witch

  • unc steph

    Tarheel Fan- are you doing the reverse mojo thing here or do you really think we lose? I have had a bad feeling about each game this tournament and that has worked good so far but I am kinda shocked to see your final score. Seems like most of ESPN guys are picking us to win except Dookie V.

  • LarryS

    “Barnes could be the real X factor having become the first Tar Heel since Lennie Rosenbluth to score 20 or more points in three straight NCAA Tournament games”

    Hasn’t Zeller also scored 20 or more points in three straight NCAAT games? (32, 23, and 27 for a total of 82 points) Don’t want to forget about my man Zeller.


    Even if this is only a regional final, as opposed to a national semi-final or final, it’s still a pretty high-stakes game like we were talking about the other day with Duke - albeit not on nearly as extreme a level - as far as storied-program rivals.

    Sending Cal and his team back to Lexington would be immensely satisfying, and I hope they can find a way to pull it off.


  • lviveiros

    KM is the man today ( aka secret weapon.)..KM was not starting last game we played against UK and we are a totally different team with him being the LEADER………..
    My only worry..Harrelson pushing John and Z around..think thier height and play hUGE
    We need to REBOUND and MINIMAL turnovers

    GO HEELS, its great to be a carolina fan..loving it…..

  • lviveiros

    I say EVERYONE will be ready and focused come 5pm.The TEAM knows what the prize will be if we WIN..
    It would not surprise me if lelsie Mac swishes some outside shots today..

  • jtchill84

    Before the OSU game, Calipari said that the key to beating OSU was to not worry about what the Buckeyes would do, and concentrate instead on what UK had to do. I think this is going to be their philosophy in this game as well. Look for them to shoot 3′s (they shoot 40% as a team, and even better than that for just the core players), hit the boards, and play tough defense.
    UNC needs to run the floor, limit turnovers, hit shots (short jumpers as well as 3′s), and minimize the three-point threat of UK. I don’t think UK’s inside guys are good enough to overcome UNC’s inside Big Three offensively (they may get some points but not enough to carry UK to victory), so unless there is foul trouble for the Big Three (a possibility, unfortunately) the difference in this game will be how well UNC runs the floor vs. how well UK shoots from beyond the arc.
    Thus, my prediction is….er….well….you know…uhh….

  • 7YrsBlue

    LMac really needs to get his shot in gear for this one. He’s fallen off lately.

  • TheUNCFan

    I could say something about the matchups and stuff, but this is what I wrote in my diary yesterday:

    “As a UNC fan, I have to pause to remember what those light-blue NC letters actually mean. The Tar Heels are back in the NCAA tourament. They are the last ACC team still playing basketball (the last two, Duke and FSU, just lost - while I love a Duke loss as a bonus to help enjoy the tournament, there’s something that’s still a little sad about seeing the ACC teams going home). All the other ACC teams have ended their seasons, and two have fired their coaches. UNC is going to have a game against UK, in one of the most storied and well-known sports rivalries ever, dating back across different eras. College basketball doesn’t get any better than this. This is what basketball is all about, and what being a UNC fan is all about. Not many fans of college basketball are in this situation - although they’re watching UNC play, they don’t have the lifetime investment of growing up a UNC fan, suffering through the 8-20 season, and having the Tar Heels inextricably interwoven with life. Last year was the NIT year when UNC missed the NCAA tourament, and now (most of) those same players, as well as a few new freshmen, have learned how to win big games and are back where they are supposed to be, playing in March when only 8 of the 340-something teams are still playing. Now there can only be at most three more games in the season. This is both a great time, since everything is on the line and each minute and each possession are charged with a win-or-go-home significance, and also a sad time, since the season is almost over and the games will end - and then there’s no next game to get the date and time for, no scouting report on the opponent, and so on.”

    So enjoy!

  • Got my mojo workin’: 2005 Championship T, white-on- white NC cap & lowcut Converse All Stars.

    THF I’ve lost count of how many times this season my gut told me the Heels were going to lose & this team proved me wrong. Vitale is picking KU too, which will double the pleasure when the Heels stomp the ‘Cats!

  • unc steph

    I think todays game changer is Dex. Looking back the past couple of games he has been really good hence we win. Today if he can score 10 points and get some steals we win.

    Does Ky play any zone?

  • unc steph

    My mojo is also working: got my lucky shirt and necklace on as usual on game days. Didn’t get to wear it ACC tournament championship game because the day before a bottle of ketchup exploded on it while watching the Carolina/Clemson game so I had to spray n wash overnight. And we know how that game turned out.

  • faustus1500


    I have this gut feeling UNC goes down tonight. I have this feeling that Brandon Knight will be going to the basket with relative ease. In general, it seems like the Wildcats have more weapons than UNC. For UNC to win, they will need to receive production from Strickland, Knox, and/or McDonald. While Strickland has posted some solid offensive numbers during the tournament, McDonald and Knox have been putrid.

  • lviveiros

    Nice post UNCFAN…
    ITA I plan to enjoy ………

    less then 5 hours
    GO HEELS..

  • CotaFloata

    If Kentucky is more “motivated” because of a game that took place 4 months ago, Carolina doesn’t deserve to be in the final four anyway.

  • tarheel502

    I am a Carolina fan living in Kentucky. I am absolutely surrounded by UK fans, including my entire family. You guys HAVE TO win this game. Otherwise, it could be bad…

    Go Heels!!!

  • lviveiros

    tarheel502 TLOL I feel for you.. oh you poor soul.

  • Misplaced Tar Heel

    I too am wearing what I call my ‘battle armor’:

    2005 Championship shirt, Boston Red Sox Hat (Our two recent titles almost mirror their baseball successes of late), and am about to pick up some Bad Penny Brown Ale from the ‘Teeter.

    New this year: a hoodie my girlfriend bought for me (she’s a recent UNC convert and now has her own ‘battle gear’) that will become part of my set because of how the Heels turned around the season and turned all of us into believers again.

    I think Tar Heel Blue did a mailbag years ago where they asked us all what our game rituals are. I’m curious what some of you guys do. My main one is parking the volume of the TV on a number of a Tar Heel player. 31 worked for most of the year but I swapped it to 40 for the second half of the Washington Game. We see what happened with Marquette… (and yes I realize how absurd, yet fun, these superstitions are).

    That being said, I dislike Kentucky, their coach, and want the all time wins record back. If I recall, we briefly took it from them before last year, didn’t we? Either way, we got this.

    Go Heels!

  • Robeytussin

    Every year I have been at UNC we have been in a “Championship game”

    05 NCAA Championship (Win)
    Left School
    Came back Spring 09
    09 NCAA Championship (Win)
    10 NIT Championship (FAIL)

    Last semester before graduation, let’s make it 3/3 NCAA Championship wins guysssssss

    THF, your prediction fails, this is going to be a blowout.

  • UNC863

    HEELS- 86


  • Michael

    MTH I do the exact same thing! I have been on 40 for CBS games this year and 31 for ESPN.

  • lviveiros

    less then 3 hours to go…
    TLOL I do 31 cbs 40 espn… wow similar rituals…
    ON game days wear carolina blue

  • lviveiros

    I think Kansas is going down

  • lviveiros

    Thats what Self gets for talking down on O’lRoy

  • ncbluesky244

    I’m so proud of the North Carolina Tar Heels. They perservered through a horrible year last year, determined to get better, worked hard a a team and won the regular season ACC title. They’ve competed with heart, class and made their way to the Elite Eight. Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the young Heels have made us proud, represented their university well and have much to be proud of. They’ve put the program back on a national footing and hopefully setting the stage for another great run of highly competetive teams. Coach Williams and his staff should be comended and we are glad they are on the job. Now, Lets go HEELS ! Beat the Kentucky Wildcats

  • lviveiros

    ncblue.. me too..great post and totally agree..