Two of college basketball’s premier programs will clash at the CBS Sports Classic this evening as the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats and the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels will meet at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. ET and the game will air on CBS. This will be the 43rd all-time showdown between these two blue bloods with UNC leading the series 25-17.
Kentucky (7-2) will take the court for the first time since last Saturday, where it went up to Philadelphia and downed Penn 81-66. The victory was much needed since they were coming off an upset loss at the hands of UNC-Wilmington the week prior and the Cats didn’t trail for a single second at the Wells Fargo Center. Antonio Reeves was the only UK starter to cross double-digit points as freshman Aaron Bradshaw and Rob Dillingham both provided 17-point efforts off the bench.
North Carolina (7-2, 1-0 ACC) is back in action for the first time since December 5, where it fell in an 87-76 loss to UConn at Madison Square Garden. The veteran squad began to fall behind in the closing minutes of the first half and were unable to catch up as the Huskies out-rebounded them and shot just over 50% from the field. RJ Davis, Harrison Ingram, and Armando Bacot accounted for 59 of the Tar Heels’ points that evening, but they were unable to get much offensive production elsewhere.
What jumps out in this battle of college basketball heavyweights is the clash of experience with UNC being the fourth-oldest team in the country while the UK roster is filled with freshman contributors. Both have top 15 offenses in adjusted efficiency per KenPom, but the Cats have stood out in a few areas. They are the third-best three-point shooting team in the country at 41.3% and they are taking care of the ball with just a 11.3 turnover percentage. UNC’s offense is not too far behind in that category at 13.9%, so this game may come down to which defense can force the most mistakes.
What this game means for Kentucky
This young Kentucky squad has generally played well, but could really use a boost in the form of a Quad 1 win before the start of SEC play in a few weeks. The Wildcats’ lone Quad 1 game was an 89-84 loss to Kansas just over a month ago and if they want to be viewed as one of the nation’s elite, then they need to get the job done this evening.
What this game means for North Carolina
North Carolina is also straddling the fence between good and elite, as it is 1-2 in Quad 1 contests so far. The Tar Heels have had a week to stew on their loss to UConn and needs a bounce back victory as the non-conference portion of their schedule winds down. With a tough matchup against Oklahoma looming next Wednesday, UNC can’t afford to head into that showdown on a two-game losing streak.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Spread: North Carolina -1.5
Moneyline: UNC -122, UK +102