Don't let the Tar Heels frontcourt get comfortable: Up front, the Tar Heels are deep and versatile. James Michael McAdoo can shoot the ball to 15 feet but is best running the floor. He is an alert off-ball defender but can be driven in the half court. He is joined by a combination of big, physical, athletic posts and power forwards in Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. Johnson is the most athletic of the frontcourt players, as he runs the court hard, finishes off dump-offs, is an active offensive rebounder and can knock down the 15-foot jumper. He would rather groove his right shoulder.
Meeks is a big, physical low-post player. What he lacks in lift he makes up with excellent footwork and hands. Be careful of his shot fake and step through. He must be cut out on the shot. Meeks is an excellent wedge rebounder. Make sure to limit Isaiah Hicks and Joel James on the glass as well.
Make North Carolina set up its half-court offense: Offensively, the Tar Heels are looking to push at every opportunity. They will contest and leak out for run-outs. The better shot selection and execution we have on offense, the better the defensive transition. In transition, it's crucial to run with their bigs, as they look often to early post.
Once in the half court, Paige will use trail drag screens to get in the lane or will hit ahead. North Carolina will run out of a box set as well as flow to motion. This is a hard-cutting team. Communication, early talk and being alert are absolutely essential.
Attack the hoop early in the shot clock: We must score against Kentucky before it can get its defense set. The primary focus is to get to the rim before its post presences can establish position in the paint. Michigan State did that in its 78-74 win early in the season, and we must do the same.
The most effective way to score is in transition. In order to run, you have to rebound first. John Calipari has to make a choice: Will he send four players to the offensive boards like Michigan State did and run the risk of getting beat in transition? Or what Belmont did when it beat us in Chapel Hill and sag back to its own zone? That decision could loom large.
Don't turn the ball over: Once Kentucky is back defensively, you must make them cover. Be patient and see if the young Wildcats will gamble, overrun the ball or foul. You must do this without turning it over and giving them easy baskets. We forced 14 turnovers in our win against Michigan State, so we can't let it happen to us.
Establish post presence from the opening tip: The ball must go inside early and often. We've done a strong job at reversing the ball and creating angles for our posts to score at the rim. That needs to continue, though it will be a challenge. You can't make tough 2-pointers against Kentucky because of its length. Drop steps and high-lows must be used to score in the paint.
Marcus Paige's improvement from long range will come into play. He shoots 39 percent from 3-point range, so when doubled inside, kick it out for the open shot. Paige's quickness and ability to score from anywhere on the court can turn this game in our favor.