The top two Class of 2020 recruiting classes will be on display Saturday in the first of two games of the CBS Sports Classic when Kentucky and No. 22 North Carolina meet in a battle of teams that have shown similarities this season. Both squads are counting on freshmen for production and have experienced some frustration as a result of their youth early in the 2020-21 season.
North Carolina enters with a 4-2 record, but only one of its victories is against a top-100 KenPom team, and the Tar Heels struggled against last Saturday against North Carolina Central before squeaking out a 73-67 victory. They have not played since then and will be looking to finish the nonconference slate strong before beginning league play against NC State on Tuesday.
Kentucky is 1-4 with its only victory coming against lowly Morehead State as the Wildcats have struggled during a non conference schedule featuring six straight games against top-100 KenPom teams leading into the start of SEC play. But despite their early-season blues, these two storied programs are still loaded with talent and have lofty aspirations for the 2020-21 season. Six of the last nine games in this series have been decided by five points or fewer, and it would be no surprise if this one is a thriller, too.
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- When: Saturday, Dec. 19, 2 p.m. ET
- Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Kentucky: Coach John Calipari is turning to wing Terrence Clarke to run the point in this game as the Wildcats have been stuck between 62 and 64 points in every game during a four-game losing streak. But regardless of who is bringing the ball up, Kentucky is going to need better outside shooting as its 24.7% 3-point shooting clip ranked 313th nationally entering weekend. The good news is that the Tar Heels’ perimeter defense has been susceptible, as illustrated when Iowa hit 17-of-40 tries from 3-point range. Kentucky might get some good looks. But it can hit them?
North Carolina: With four players averaging between 11 and 12 points per game so far, North Carolina has been incredibly balanced through six games. The group effort has been partly out of necessity with leading returning scorer Garrison Brooks battling through some injury issues, but it’s also a sign that the Tar Heels have more legitimate scoring options than they did during last year’s disastrous 14-19 campaign. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the UNC offense is running smoothly, though. The Tar Heels have turned the ball over 99 times and have just 75 assists on the season as five-star freshman point guard Caleb Love is still feeling his way through the adjustment to college basketball.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina prediction, pick
Kentucky hasn’t shown that it can win a close game yet, while North Carolina at least has a 67-63 win over Stanford under its belt. The Tar Heels have a bit more veteran experience and better depth, especially in the front court. That could prove valuable in a game that might have a ton of fouls since both teams love to attack the basket. Prediction: North Carolina 71, Kentucky 66
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