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. New mixtape of 2016 guard Kwe Parker is ridiculous (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker is one of the best dunkers in all of basketball and he shows why in this new mixtape.

  2. Report: Arizona State gives Herb Sendek a contract extension

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Herb Sendek AP

    Arizona State has given head coach Herb Sendek an extension.

  3. East Carolina nabs a local 2015 wing

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    jeff lebo Getty Images

    East Carolina is on the board in 2015.

  4. Five-star 2015 forward cuts his list to five schools

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    (adidas Gauntlet) (adidas Gauntlet)

    A five-star 2015 forward cut his list to five schools on Monday.

  5. Indiana freshman is currently in a walking boot

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana will have to remain patient with a freshman that is currently battling an ankle injury.

  6. Assembly Hall as a groom’s cake? Why not! (PHOTO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    @Kschack1 @Kschack1

    You need a very understanding wife to get away with this.

  7. Tennessee adds second commitment in two days with three-star guard

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Murray St Morehead St Basketball

    Tennessee has one scholarship left available for 2015.

  8. Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Find out why Saint Louis and Missouri are on the list along with the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.

  9. Tom Izzo calls PGA Tour caddie after wife passes away

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Izzo spoke on the phone with the caddie for 15 minutes.

  10. Mixtape for top 50 center Marques Bolden (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.38.38 AM

    Bolden is a 6-foot-9 center from Texas

  11. Ohio senior forward contributes to Senegal’s first FIBA worlds victory since 1998

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Maurice Ndour AP

    The second team All-MAC selection scored eight points in Senegal’s win over Puerto Rico.

  12. In-state forward becomes Kansas State’s second commitment in four days

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    Bruce Weber AP

    Bruce Weber now has three verbal commitments in the Class of 2015.

  13. Nebraska lands commitment from four-star point guard

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    5-foot-11 point guard Glynn Watson becomes Nebraska’s second 2015 commitment.

  14. Five-star 2015 small forward cuts list to six schools

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Slender forward Brandon Ingram is one of the best perimeter prospects in the Class of 2015.

  15. Illinois native becomes Tennessee’s first 2015 commitment

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is on the board in 2015 due to the addition of a versatile 6-foot-5 forward.

  16. North Carolina accepts their head coach’s challenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT

    Marcus Paige AP

    Roy Williams challenged his players in the Bahamas, and the accepted it on Saturday afternoon.

  17. Malik Newman to narrow list soon, won’t announce until after season

    Aug 31, 2014, 3:39 PM EDT

    Malik Newman (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Malik Newman is the No. 3 overall recruit, according to Rivals.

  18. Twin brothers commit to Quinnipiac

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Quinnipiac Athletics Quinnipiac Athletics

    The Robinson brothers are the first two commits in Quinnipiac’s Class of 2015.

  19. Four-star guard New Williams commits to Bruce Pearl and Auburn

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Bruce Pearl has landed five commitments in 10 days.