UNC Basketball: Kentucky freshmen vs. North Carolina seniors

BY Fansided and Horran Cameron/FanSided via Keeping It Heel • December 16, 2016

UNC and Kentucky meet on Saturday in a matchup that’s experience against youth

This weekend, two of the best blue blood college basketball teams will face off. The No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels will play the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This game will feature an interesting matchup between UNC’s seniors and UK’s freshmen.

The Tar Heels are led by their juniors and seniors.

However, their senior players consist of Nate Britt, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Stilman White and Kanler Coker.

This class was several points away from winning a national championship last season. UNC head coach Roy Williams looks to build upon last season’s success

Dec 21, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) and forward Kennedy Meeks (3) and forward Isaiah Hicks (4) react during game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. The Tar Heels won 94-70. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

On the other hand, year in and year out the Kentucky Wildcats are led by their freshman class. This year’s crop of “Big Blue” freshmen include De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Edrice Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

It is important to note that UK head coach John Calipari has endured a great deal of success with star freshmen recruits. Kentucky’s 2010 freshmen went to the 2011 Final Four. His freshman 2011 class won the national championship.

Calipari’s 2014 freshmen class lost to the Connecticut Huskies in the national championship game. Kentucky’s 2015 freshmen class led their team to a 38-0 record before losing in the Final Four to the Wisconsin Badgers.

As stated, Calipari’s system of having annually revolving freshmen has netted great results.

Sep 15, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De Aaron Fox (0) forward Bam Adebayo (3) forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) and guard Malik Monk (5) during Kentucky media day at Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

This discussion gives rise to this current season. How will Calipari’s 2016 freshman class fare this season?

Better yet, how will they do against UNC’s senior class that was several points shy of their ‘shining moment’ several months ago?

Nov 25, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) goes up for a dunk against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Tennessee-Martin 111-76. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Monk, guard, 6’3″ 200 pounds

Kentucky’s leading scorer, averages 19.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, 47.7% field goal percentage, 87% free throw percentage, 38.5% three-point field goal percentage, plays 28 minutes per game.

Monk has scored in double figures every game this season. He is a scoring machine. He has posted point totals of 26 points (against the University of Tennessee-Martin), 24 points (against UCLA), 23 points (against Michigan State, Cleveland State and Arizona State) and 20 points (against Hofstra).

Nov 25, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De

De’Aaron Fox, guard, 6’3″ 187 pounds

De’Aaron Fox leads Kentucky in assists and steals, ranks third in rebounds on team, averages 15.1 points, 6.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals per game; 44.1% field goal percentage, 73.3% free throw percentage, 14.3% three-point field goal percentage.

Fox posted a triple-double against Arizona State (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). Other standout games from this freshman include:

    Dec 7, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Edrice Bam Adebayo (3) dunks the ball against the Valparaiso Crusaders in the first half at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Edrice “Bam Bam” Adebayo, forward, 6’10” 260 pounds

    Kentucky’s leader in rebounding and blocks, averages 12.6 points, eight rebounds, 1.8 blocks per game; 54.5% field goal percentage, 66.7% free throw percentage.

    With the exception of two games (Michigan State and Stephen F. Austin), Adebayo has scored in double figures every game this season.

    His best games this season are:

      Nov 6, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) dunks the ball against Asbury Eagles forward Jared Farris (30) in the first half at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

      Wenyen Gabriel, forward, 6’9″ 213 pounds

      Wenyen Gabriel averages 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He ranks second in rebounding for the Wildcats. In 20.4 minutes per game this season, he shoots 53.1% from the field, 80% from the free throw line and 21.4% from three-point range.

      Gabriel had 15 points, six rebounds and one assist against the University of Tennessee-Martin in a 111-76 blowout. He followed up this performance with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 115-69 victory over Arizona State.

      Nov 6, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) dunks the ball against the Asbury Eagles in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Asbury 156-63. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

      Sacha Killeya-Jones, center, 6’10” 230 pounds

      Sacha Killeya-Jones hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. That’s right. Kentucky’s John Calipari cherry-picked Killeya-Jones right from the Tar Heels’ backyard.

      Killeya-Jones averages four points, three rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game this season. He makes 61.5% of his field goals and 30.8% of his free throws.

      SKJ’s best game this season came against the University of Tennessee-Martin. He finished the game with 12 points (made six of eight field goals), four rebounds and one block.

      Dec 11, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) goes for a layup during the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

      Nate Britt, guard, 6’1″ 175 pounds

      Nate Britt averages 6.5 points, 3.3 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game this season. He makes 34.2% of his field goals, 66.7% of his free throws and 31.3% of his free throws.

      Britt is coming off one of the best games of his college career. When UNC played Tennessee this past Sunday, Britt led the Tar Heels to a 73-71 victory. He finished the game with 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals.

      Nov 22, 2016; Lahaina, Maui, HI, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3) dunks against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the Maui Jim Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

      Kennedy Meeks, forward, 6’10” 260 pounds

      Kennedy Meeks averages 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game this season. He shoots 51.9% from the field and 55.6% from the free throw line.

      Meeks is having his best season as a Tar Heel. He had four double-doubles this season. He recorded double-doubles against No. 16 Wisconsin (15 points and 16 rebounds), Chaminade (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Chattanooga (14 points and 12 rebounds).

      Nov 21, 2016; Lahaina, Maui, HI, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Chaminade Silverswords guard Kiran Shastri (33) during the Maui Jim Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

      Isaiah Hicks, forward, 6’9″ 242 pounds

      Isaiah Hicks averages 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season. He makes 61.8% of his field goals and 81.1% of his free throws.

      Hicks has scored double figures in every game except three this season (Long Beach State, No. 13 Indiana, Tennessee). His best game this season so far was against Chaminade, where he posted 22 points and six rebounds.

      The senior must stay out of foul trouble early against Kentucky.

      Nov 13, 2015; Annapolis, MD, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Stilman White (30) moves the ball as Temple Owls guard Trey Lowe (11) defends durning the second half of the Veterans Classic at Alumni Hall. North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Temple Owls 91-67. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

      Stilman White, guard, 6’1″ 178 pounds

      Stilman White averages two points per game this season. His significance transcends mere statistical categories. Due to the absence of UNC starting point guard Joel Berry II, White has been one of the fill-ins for him.

      White helps to maintain the flow and pace of North Carolina’s offense. If Berry does not play against Kentucky, then White will be called on to settle UNC’s offense and defend UK’s star freshmen.

      After reviewing the individual statistics of Kentucky’s freshmen and North Carolina’s seniors, which group do you think will have the bigger impact on Saturday’s game?

      Will UK’s freshmen dominate the game with their athleticism and scoring, or will UNC’s seniors control the pace of the game with their experience, in particular their rebounding?

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