Kentucky vs North Carolina
When: 5:05 PM ET, Sunday, March 26, 2017
Where: FedExForum, Memphis
Two of the most successful programs in college basketball history meet Sunday in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., and the South Region game between top-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky also serves as a rematch of one of the best games this season. The Wildcats beat North Carolina 103-100 on Dec. 17 in a one-day showcase in Las Vegas as Malik Monk scored 47 points, a freshman record at Kentucky, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left.
Both teams faced challenging roads to this point – especially Kentucky, which beat third-seeded UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen 86-75 on Friday night, getting 39 points from freshman guard De’Aaron Fox and some redemption after the Bruins went to Kentucky and beat the top-ranked Wildcats earlier this season. Kentucky also won games by single digits over Northern Kentucky and Wichita State in the first two rounds of the tournament, so the Wildcats should be prepared for a close battle against North Carolina. The Tar Heels beat fourth-seeded Butler 92-80 in the Sweet Sixteen and their two leading scorers, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II, came through with big games, scoring 24 and 26 points, respectively. Kentucky is well aware of the duo as Jackson, a 6-8 junior forward, scored a career-high 34 points against the Wildcats in December, and Berry, a 6-foot junior guard, scored 23.
TV: 5:05 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT KENTUCKY (32-5): The Tar Heels start four forwards that measure 6-6, 6-8, 6-9 and 6-10, so the Wildcats need to counter that with their superior guard play. Kentucky still needs strong performances in the middle from 6-10 freshman forward Bam Adebayo and 6-9 senior forward Derek Willis, their only two starters down low. They didn’t hold up well against UCLA’s size, combining for 10 points and 12 rebounds, and the Wildcats didn’t receive any help up front off the bench.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (30-7): Like many of the high school All-Americans who sign with North Carolina, Kennedy Meeks wasn’t expected to stick around for four years, but the senior forward made the decision to keep coming back and might be the biggest difference-maker in this game. Meeks is not only 6-10, but weighs 260 pounds and should be able muscle his way loose down low against the Wildcats. He played only 20 minutes before fouling out in the earlier meeting against Kentucky, but still scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, numbers that figure to improve if he can stay on the court.
1. Kentucky is the NCAA leader in all-time victories (2,239) and North Carolina is third (2,203), and the Tar Heels appeared in the most Final Fours (19) with the Wildcats third (17).
2. Kentucky and North Carolina meet in a regional final for the fourth time with the Wildcats prevailing 76-69 in 2011 in the most-recent meeting.
3. The Tar Heels have a plus-47 rebounding margin through the first three games of the tournament.