"I think point guard will be really important so I think the matchup between Marquis Teague and Kendall Marshall is going to be really important."
That's one of the keys on which ESPN's Jay Bilas focused on Wednesday, when talking about the UK-North Carolina showdown on "The Leach Report" radio show. Bilas worked the Tar Heels' upset loss to UNLV last Saturday and he is sure we'll see a much more focused UNC squad.
"A team like Kentucky is going to grab their attention. I don't think they were too worried about UNLV. They clearly weren't as intense as they will be stepping on the floor at Rupp Arena," said Bilas. "Ultimately, these games come down to shooting."
Vegas hurt UNC with 13 three-point baskets and Bilas recalled that Kentucky hit 12 in its Elite Eight win over the Heels last March. Ultimately, though, Bilas was hardly shocked to see Carolina get clipped. And he won't be surprised when it happens to Kentucky--and every other team--at some point.
"A Carolina fan came up to me and said 'do you think Carolina is going to run the table?' I didn't mean to be rude but I just started laughing. I said, 'no, I don't think anybody is going to run the table'," Bilas said. "I think it's ludicrous to expect these teams, in the age of the three-point shot and all the travel that they're doing, that they're going to be sharp (every time out)."
John Calipari suggested Kentucky might have the worst offense in the country in his halftime interview with ESPN's Shannon Spake last night. Ofcourse, it's not, but it's also a long way from where it will need to be in March.
Given that it's December 2, that's not such a big deal--especially since UK can rely on its defense. That's usually not a luxury North Carolina has because its calling card is its fast-paced offense.
"They weren't ever great last year. They became good enough (on defense)," observed Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy earlier this week. "You don't have to be great defensively to win a championship. If you look at Carolina's '09 team, they weren't great (on defense). But you have to be good enough and (against UNLV last week), they were not that.
"They're always going to be an offensive-focused basketball team," he continued. "Most NCAA championships are won with offense first--at least they were until the last couple of years."
DeCourcy believes Kentucky's potential on defense is considerable.
"I think Kentucky is a team that can be great on defense, a really destructive defensive team. If they learn and really get focused on that end (of the court). I don't think this Carolina team do that but they can certainly be good enough to win a championship," said DeCourcy.
For Saturday, DeCourcy thinks point guard Marquis Teague's defense on his Carolina counterpart, Kendall Marshall, could be an edge for UK.
"No question, Marquis Teague is a player, with his build and his athleticism, he can make the league based on that (defense) first. This is going to be the best point guard he'll have faced. Offensively, he's been extraordinary. He (Marshall) really understands how to read the floor," noted DeCourcy. "And a lot of the problem with defending Kendall is you've got to get on him early, when he gets the outlet pass."
Senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed says he just knew his team could beat Tennessee, despite a 26-game losing streak.
"How did I know? I had faith in my team. I could see in the guys' eyes. We wanted to stop them from going to a bowl. If we can't go to a bowl, they can't go to a bowl," said Sneed.
"I've never been on a UK team that has had such a tight bond," Sneed added. "We're always willing to go out and lay it on the line for each other."