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No. 9 North Carolina, No. 14 Kentucky could show recent changes in matchup


There has been an evolving aspect of the season for No. 14 Kentucky.

That could be happening with No. 9 North Carolina as well.

So new wrinkles could be part of the scene when the teams meet Saturday in Atlanta as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

Kentucky has unveiled some of the recent changes with its make-up. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have had more than a week since their latest game, so expect some tweaks to be on display this weekend.

“It’s also an opportunity to work on us,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “Over the last month, specifically over the last 2 1/2 weeks, we’ve been practicing, but we’ve been preparing for games.”

So behind closed doors, the Tar Heels have been intent on getting better.

North Carolina (7-2) has been off since an 87-76 loss to then-No. 5 Connecticut on Dec. 5, and next week it takes on undefeated Oklahoma (currently 9-0).

Kentucky (7-2) is trying to defeat a Top 10 team for the second time this season after taking down then-No. 8 Miami 95-73 on Nov. 28.

But these aren’t the same bunch of Wildcats. Kentucky is expected to receive continued boosts from Aaron Bradshaw, a 7-foot-1 freshman who had his second action of the season last weekend in a victory against Penn.

“He’s trying to prove himself,” coach John Calipari said. “I want to have a whole team of guys trying to prove themselves.”

The addition of Bradshaw to the rotation should make the Wildcats more unpredictable to opponents.

“This is interesting,” Calipari said, “because I have two teams. I have a small team and now I have a big team.”

Bradshaw has averaged 10 points across his two games, making eight of 13 shots from the field.

“Just be me, do what I do,” he said.

North Carolina battled with Connecticut in its only game last week.

“Encouraged what this team can be and where it can go,” Davis said. “There’s a lot more season to go and a lot more grow. I’m excited about how good we can become.”

Perhaps it’s interesting that Kentucky now has more size available in the post. Davis wants the Tar Heels to become more formidable in rebounding.

“I want to be one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country,” he said. “Every day we talk about three, four and five — get to the offensive glass so (we’re) able to second-chance opportunities.”

Kentucky’s rebounding advantage equates to just plus-1.6 per game. The Wildcats lead the country with a 2.20 assist-to-turnover ratio. They’ve scored more than 80 points in every game except one this season.

Even then, Calipari would like to see smoother decision-making from his team.

“I’ve got some guys that have to make the absolute hardest play they can try to make, and they all make it one out of four (times), 25 percent,” he said.

RJ Davis has been a scoring machine for North Carolina, posting 26.6 points per game in the last five outings. He averages 21 points per game this season.

Kentucky’s leading scorer is Antonio Reeves at 18 points per game.

North Carolina leads the all-time series 25-17. Kentucky is 3-1 in CBS Sports Classic matchups with the Tar Heels.

Atlanta’s State Farm Arena is the seventh different venue in the 10-year history of the CBS Sports Classic.

–Field Level Media

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