#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Kentucky
Sunday 5:05 EST, CBS
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson
The junior forward has been the man this year for the Tarheels. In the win Sweet 16 win over Butler on Friday, Jackson scored 24 points even with an atrocious 2-8 from three-point land. His length and versatility will give Kentucky problems along with his great scoring ability.
X-Factor: Crashing the glass
North Carolina is the best offensive rebounding team in the country. On the other hand, Kentucky is average on the defensive glass where they rank 95th in the nation according to KenPom. The Tarheels get a good amount of their points off second chances and it will be key for them to keep up their tenacity on the offensive boards.
Player to Watch: De’Aaron Fox
Kentucky without Fox is like a deer in headlights. For real, though, the Wildcats look so lost without Fox. Thursday night, in the win over UCLA, the freshman guard scored 39 points and outperformed Lonzo Ball who only finished the game with 10 points. When Fox is playing great ball like he has been and Malik Monk is also playing at a high rate, Kentucky is a VERY tough team to beat and could very well be securing them a spot in the final four.
X-Factor: Big Men
The Tarheels boast one of the deepest frontcourts in the country with Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, Isiah Hicks, and add Luke Maye to the list as he has been great as of late. With that being said, forwards on Kentucky such as Bam Adebayo, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, and Wenyen Gabriel are going to have to step up and play their best ball of the year to take some pressure off the backcourt.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, North Carolina 73
I’ve doubted Kentucky simply based on the fact they don’t have a ton of scorers compared to some of their opponents, especially UCLA and look what happened there. With De’Aaron Fox playing his best ball at the right time, I think he is going to outperform UNC’s Joel Berry who is still having injury troubles.
Photo via Yahoo! Sports