Since Kentucky center Enes Kanter was
ruled permanently ineligible for receiving improper benefits, the
Wildcats have yet to be truly tested inside.
Saturday should change that.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats (5-1) travel to Chapel Hill to play
North Carolina. The Tar Heels (4-3) are expected to start 7-footer
Tyler Zeller and 6-10 forward John Henson in the game. The two have
combined to average 25.8 points and 17.6 rebounds through seven
With Kanter ineligible, Kentucky has started senior Josh
Harrellson (6-10, 275 pounds) in all six of its games - the team's
only starter over 6-8. Junior Eloy Vargas, a 6-11 forward in his
first year as a junior-college transfer, is the only option to
rotate with Harrellson underneath.
Harrellson and Vargas have combined for 8.5 points and 12.6
rebounds per game.
The lack of size "presents a big challenge," Kentucky
assistant coach John Robic said. "The biggest thing for our guys
is going to be getting back on defensive transition. They do a
great job of getting early post position, and that is their first
look. Everybody who plays them, forever, knows the first thing is
getting back on defensive transition. You can't allow them easy
baskets, you've got to make their post players work and don't give
them any angles to the goal."
Coach John Calipari was at practice on Thursday but declined to
talk to reporters while continuing mourn the death of his mother,
Donna, who passed away last weekend.
The NCAA was expected to hear an appeal this week on the ruling
in Kanter's case, but Robic said he didn't know "anything" about
the case or the hearing.
"I'm just like everybody else around here," he said.
Freshman point guard Brandon Knight said Kentucky has done a
"decent job" of running its transition defense, but Saturday will
be a true test of where it stands.
"It's definitely an area we still have to get better at,"
Knight said. "I'm pretty sure we'll work at it every day in
practice. We'll continue to get better at it but we better use it
well in this game."