Skip to content

Weekend Preview: Who’s 2nd best in the Triangle, Kentucky/UCLA with a chance for a statement

Jan 25, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Mark Gottfried

Someone wants to be relevant in the Triangle, right?: North Carolina heads to Raleigh to take on No. 18 NC State on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a game that features two of the bigger disappointments in the ACC this season. And, frankly, it’s not totally unexpected. We knew that North Carolina was young heading into the season and we knew that NC State was talented but coming off of a fluky run to the Sweet 16 and still had Mark Gottfried as their head coach.

But in a season that as proven to be as wide-open as any in recent memory — particularly with the injury to Ryan Kelly at Duke — it’s still surprising that both the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack have fallen so far out of the discussion for the ACC regular season title. They’ll fall even farther with a loss Saturday night, as both teams are currently sitting two games behind undefeated Miami in the ACC standings.

Are either of these teams truly going to be competitors for the ACC crown? A loss on Saturday pretty much ends that discussion.

So what’s the deal with Kentucky?: Does anyone have a definitive answer at this point? They have plenty of talent on the roster. They have some pieces that, in a vacuum, can be really impressive. But “it” just hasn’t “clicked” yet for the Wildcats. What I mean is that John Calipari has yet to get this team to the point where they look better every single time they step on the court. With last year’s group, Kentucky would seemingly get better after each TV timeout, not just after each game. Their ascent from young-but-talented to holy-crap-they’re-awesome was fast and steep. This year’s team is still making the same mistakes and still has the same issues that we were talking about in November. That’s a problem.

On Saturday, LSU visits Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3) in a game that the Wildcats simply have to win. But this is one of those instances where just a win may not suffice. The Wildcats need a confidence builder. They need to come out and dominate an overmatched Tiger team from the start. They need to make a statement, because that will a) allow their fans to slowly step away from the edge of the cliff, and b) it will provide a building block on which they can grow. Hesitancy and a lack of confidence are the worst traits an athlete can have, and it’s an issue afflicting everyone on Kentucky not named Nerlens Noel.

Rotnei Clarke’s return: When Temple visits No. 9 Butler on Saturday (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), we’ll likely see Clarke return to the court for the first time since this terrifying injury that he suffered at Dayton two Saturday’s ago. He’s been cleared to practice and the Bulldogs are awaiting word on whether he’ll be allowed to play on Saturday. Butler beat Gonzaga in a thrilling win last Saturday night, but they lost on a last-second shot from Ramon Galloway at La Salle on Wednesday night. Clarke’s return should be a major boost for the Bulldogs.

Turn the Bruins turn a corner last night?: On Thursday, UCLA put on one of the most impressive displays we’ve seen out of Ben Howland’s program since … they made the 2008 Final Four? Seriously. UCLA went into the McKale Center and just drubbed Arizona, jumping out to a 19-3 lead and never allowing the Wildcats to get closer than four points the rest of the way. Now here comes the big test. UCLA visits a good Arizona State team on Saturday (4:00 p.m. ET, FSN). It’s a game they probably can’t afford to lose if they want to keep within striking distance of Oregon at the top of the Pac-12.

Good teams win on the road. The really good teams, the teams that can compete for conference championships and Final Fours, don’t have letdowns after winning a big game on the road. Saturday should tell us a lot about UCLA.

Big Sky showdown: Weber State had to go and lose to Montana State on the road on Thursday night, taking some of the luster off of the big matchup in the Big Sky on Saturday night (9:05 p.m. ET). As was the case last season, Weber State and Montana are the class of the conference. The Grizzlies are now sitting at 9-0 in the league while the Wildcats 8-1. It will be a good way to cap what should be another great Saturday of hoops.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Wisconsin receives Final Four rings (PHOTOS)

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Wisconsin got some pretty cool rings for making the Final Four.

  2. Five-star 2016 forward Harry Giles looks healthy after knee injury (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Harry Giles

    After tearing his ACL less than a year ago, Harry Giles looks healthy and prepared to battle for No. 1 in the Class of 2016.

  3. Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will coach USA Basketball Select Team

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Chris Collins AP

    Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will be working with pros this summer.

  4. Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    Seven thoughts are a weekend at AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.

  5. Washington lands a commitment from Jermaine Haley

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    DRIVE Basketball DRIVE Basketball

    Haley is the first member of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class.

  6. Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Our Raphielle Johnson spent five days at the tournaments out in Vegas last week. Here are his thoughts on them.

  7. One college coach’s unique connection to the Peach Jam

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan

    Miami of Ohio assistant coach Trey Meyer is a native of North Augusta and grew up working, playing and coaching at Peach Jam.

  8. Kwe’Shaun Parker could win the NBA dunk contest right now (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.34.37 PM

    The scary part? The rising junior’s game is finally starting to develop.

  9. Report: Houston transfer Valentine Izundu is heading west

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Izundu played very limited minutes as a sophomore

  10. Kentucky’s budget for chartered jets is massive

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway Kentucky Speedway

    Want to guess how much they spend on planes for recruiting?

  11. July Live Period Week Three Superlatives

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    The best of the best from the final week of the July live evaluation period from Las Vegas and Louisville.

  12. Ben Simmons does not make Australia’s national team

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Thon Maker won’t be on the team either, but it is loaded with former college stars.

  13. Skal Labissiere is considering Europe, but that doesn’t mean there’s a market for him

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    "NBPA Top 100 Camp"

    Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.

  14. Official visit schedule set for five-star 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.

  15. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell breaks his second backboard of the summer

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Nearly three months after breaking a backboard during a pickup game, the rising junior took out another one this weekend.

  16. Arizona commit Ray Smith calls ACL tear ‘a blessing’

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    ray-smith

    Ray Smith tore his ACL earlier this month.

  17. Assigned Reading: Michael Hausfeld, the man taking on the NCAA

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ed O’Bannon’s lead attorney didn’t even know who he was when he first met him.

  18. Kwe Parker throws down 360 cradle dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    picresized_th_1406475062_Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 11.28.23 AM

    It’s been a summer of viral dunks for the 6-foot-2 recruit