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First Scouting Report: In battle of blue bloods, can UK subdue UNC?

A look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next men’s basketball game:

The opponent

No. 16 Kentucky (7-2) will face No. 9 North Carolina (7-2) on Saturday, Dec. 16, in the CBS Sports Classic at State Farm Arena (seating capacity 16,888) in Atlanta:

The game will tip off around 5:30 p.m. and be telecast by CBS.

Coach Hubert Davis’ Tar Heels lost 87-76 to No. 5 Connecticut on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Series history

North Carolina leads the all-time series with Kentucky 25-17.

As UK head man, John Calipari is 7-4 vs. the Tar Heels.

North Carolina coach Hubert Davis is 0-1 against UK.

North Carolina coach Hubert Davis is 0-1 as the Tar Heels head man vs. Kentucky.
North Carolina coach Hubert Davis is 0-1 as the Tar Heels head man vs. Kentucky.

Most recent meeting

Sahvir Wheeler scored 26 points and had three rebounds, eight assists and four steals to lead Kentucky to a 98-69 rout of North Carolina on Dec. 18, 2021, in the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Power rankings

In the Pomeroy Ratings, North Carolina is No. 15, Kentucky is No. 22.

The NCAA NET rankings have North Carolina is No. 36, Kentucky No. 45.

Know your foe

1. Unlike Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, North Carolina big man Armando Bacot delayed an uncertain NBA future to play a fifth season of college basketball in 2023-24.

Like former UK star Tshiebwe, Bacot is a high-level college big whose skill set — relentless rebounding and a low post-oriented offensive game — is not an ideal fit for how the NBA game has evolved with its emphasis on outside shooting and pick-and-roll defense.

So far in 2023-24, Bacot, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound super-senior from Richmond, Virginia, is averaging 15.9 points and 11.9 rebounds through nine games. Bacot is not shooting the basketball as accurately this season (51% field-goal conversions) as he has done for his full career (55.8%).

2. North Carolina has been good this year against Southeastern Conference foes. The Tar Heels beat Arkansas 87-72 last month in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Veteran guard RJ Davis lit up the Razorbacks, hitting 9 of 18 shots, 2 of 5 treys, and 10 of 10 free throws en route to 30 points.

Davis had another big game, 27 points, as North Carolina outscored Tennessee 100-92 on Nov. 29 in the ACC/SEC Challenge in Chapel Hill. In subduing the Volunteers, Carolina also got 23 points and 11 rebounds from Bacot and 20 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting from Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram.

Veteran North Carolina guard RJ Davis (4) has averaged 28.5 points in two games vs. SEC foes, Arkansas and Tennessee, in 2023-24. Davis and the Tar Heels will take on a third Southeastern Conference team when UNC plays Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic Saturday, Dec. 16, in Atlanta.
Veteran North Carolina guard RJ Davis (4) has averaged 28.5 points in two games vs. SEC foes, Arkansas and Tennessee, in 2023-24. Davis and the Tar Heels will take on a third Southeastern Conference team when UNC plays Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic Saturday, Dec. 16, in Atlanta.

3. Since the CBS Sports Classic began in 2014, North Carolina at 6-3 has the best record of the four participating teams — but not because of how the Tar Heels have fared vs. Kentucky.

UNC is only 1-3 vs. UK in the CBS Sports Classic but is unbeaten versus the other two participating programs, having gone 3-0 vs. UCLA and 2-0 vs. Ohio State.

UK is 4-5 in CBS Sports Classic games because the Wildcats have not fared as well vs. UCLA (1-2) or Ohio State (0-2) as they have against North Carolina.

Ohio State is 4-4 and UCLA 3-5 in Champions Classic contests. The Buckeyes and Bruins did not participate in the event in 2021-22 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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