Hoops Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 5 North Carolina will tip the ball off against Kentucky at noon on Saturday with hopes of increasing its NCAA record of most wins against a No. 1-ranked opponent to 13.

** Lean your head back, close your eyes and try to imagine this scenario: Roy Williams creates his own website and not only actively blogs on the site, but seeks out feedback from his fan base on how to handle his team's affairs.

Williams's love for those "Internet people" notwithstanding, that image is difficult to grasp mentally.

But that is how Kentucky head coach John Calipari operates, and on Sunday, he offered his opinions about the difficulty of scheduling tied to conference expansion.

"This program is too important to over-schedule based on the roster turnover that I believe will continue to happen," he wrote. "You cannot put this program at risk, not with our turnover and roster. You CANNOT over-schedule and put yourself in that position."

The blog post was followed with a poll asking fans to vote on which opponent series needed to be canceled or postponed – North Carolina, Indiana or Louisville.

When Williams was asked about the poll on Friday, he responded: "The good thing is we get to vote, too. They're not the only ones that get to say yes or no."

But the ninth-year UNC head coach agreed about the challenges of scheduling with conference expansion and the pressures placed on the league by television networks.

"The TV people are always trying to push you ... to play more conference games," Williams said. "And I made the statement, I said, 'Would you rather have the No. 1 team in the conference versus No. 12? Or would you rather have North Carolina versus Kentucky?'

"Because you can't necessarily have both. In a perfect world, I'd like to play everybody in our league twice, but if we go to 14 teams, I don't know that I want to play 26 conference games."

** If North Carolina has a decided advantage in any one category over the Wildcats, it would be experience. The Tar Heels' returning five starters include a senior, two juniors and two sophomores, compared with Kentucky's three freshmen and two sophomores.

Calipari has been critical of starting forward Terrence Jones recently for not delivering the necessary amount of intangible activity, whether it be leadership or hustle plays. With Saturday's game against UNC followed by a trip to Indiana, the third-year Wildcat coach stressed the importance of Jones playing like an upperclassman.

"These next two games are vital because you cannot count on young players, freshmen, to go in there in these kind of games, the next two that we have," Calipari said. "The next two are going to be ridiculously hard for us to win, and so if we don't have that from him, it's going to be really hard for us, because again, if it's not him, you're counting on freshmen."

** While Dexter Strickland has increased his offensive production this season – a team-best 62.2 shooting percentage for players averaging more than 10 minutes per game – UNC's starting backcourt is only averaging 13.1 points per game.

Freshman guard P.J. Hairston (8.3 ppg, team-high 14 3-pointers) has provided a spark off the bench, but he is questionable for Saturday due to a sprained left wrist suffered against Wisconsin. With junior guard Leslie McDonald already sidelined for the bulk of the season after knee surgery this summer, UNC is in desperate need of someone to fill the scoring void in the backcourt.

Reserve wing Reggie Bullock (7.4 points, 11-of-25 3-pointers) has been inconsistent scoring the ball – 42 of his 52 points have come in three of UNC's seven games – but he's shown the ability to burn up the stat sheet in a hurry. But the guard that could help out the most is assist wizard Kendall Marshall (10.3 apg).

The pass-first sophomore is averaging 4.7 points on a team-low 32.3 shooting percentage (10-of-31).

"Yes, I'd like for some of the shots he's shooting to go in more,'' Williams when asked if Marshall needs to score more. "But I don't think that it's required. But if all five guys can score, it's awfully difficult to guard you. And our best teams, whether it was at Kansas or at North Carolina, had five guys that could really score. It doesn't mean you have to score 25, but if you could score 10, 12, 14, it really makes everybody play you honest."

** Calipari's dribble-drive offense has thrived during his three-year stay at Kentucky and it has been especially effective in creating open looks behind the 3-point line in the three games against North Carolina. In those contests – one in '09-'10, two last season – Kentucky connected on a blistering 45.8 percent of its 3-pointers (27-of-59).

"At their place two years ago we didn't guard anybody at the 3-point line or the 3-foot line, I remember that," Williams said. "Last year here I thought we defended the 3-point line pretty well and then in the tournament they made two huge threes that basically, to be honest with you, I was happy when the guy took the shot, but it went in, so you're not happy."

Williams suggested the Wildcats' success from deep was due to a combination of good perimeter shooters and his defenders not getting out to the arc quick enough.

UNC junior forward John Henson offered his opinion on how to force a lower 3-point percentage to reporters on Friday.

"Hopefully they'll shoot a little worse than they did the last three games, but also just staying in front of your man," Henson said. "Shooting a high percentage from three comes from open threes and that's something that we've given them a lot just because of their dribble penetration. I've never played against a team that if we got out there and challenged them they shot well from three."

** The hype surrounding this game has included a steady stream of comparisons between Henson and Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, but Williams doesn't agree with that opinion.

"I think they're really different," Williams said. "I don't think they're nearly as similar expect that both of them have an ability to block shots. I think they're really different players, but if somebody else wants to make that comparison and say they're similar, that's fine, but I don't think they're very similar."


Inside Carolina Top Stories