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ACC Roundup

Carolina, Notre Dame and Clemson are the teams to watch Saturday.

Kennedy Meeks is coming on fast for the Tar Heels
Kennedy Meeks is coming on fast for the Tar Heels
Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's games are mostly mediocre, with two exceptions: a struggling Notre Dame takes on Indiana while Kentucky visits UNC.

In the latter game, there's potential for real excitement, not least of all because no one really knows what to expect from either team.

In Kentucky's case, it's because it's such a young team. The expectations early this season were sky high, with everyone from John Calipari on down talking about going undefeated.

That's over now; Kentucky has fallen out of the Top Ten and hasn't really found its center yet.

That's not to say the Wildcats don't have a center and with his new Rodmanesque 'do, 7-0 Willie Cauley-Stein is hard to lose. He isn't as celebrated as former teammate Nerlens Noel, but he might develop into a more rounded player. He's currently averaging 9.1 ppg, nearly eight boards and 4.3 bpg.

He'll go high in the draft, but not as high as teammate Julius Randle.

Randle, along with Duke's Jabari Parker, KU's Andrew Wiggins and Arizona's Aaron Gordon, are the most highly regarded freshmen in a sensational class.

He's a huge force inside and we're not sure how UNC counters him. As a freshman, Randle is averaging 17.8 ppg and 12 ppg. Less celebrated: he's also averaging 3.5 turnovers.

Another problem for UNC is Kentucky's overall size. James Young is 6-6 and the Harrison twins are 6-5.

Down the minutes played column, Alex Poythress is 6-9, Dakari Johnson is 7-0, Marcus Lee is 6-9 and Jon Hood is 6-7.

Of the top ten players in the rotation, only Dominique Hawkins, at 6-0, is under 6-6.

Like Kentucky, UNC is a team evolving. The Heels won't have PJ Hairston or Leslie McDonald, both still sidelined by NCAA concerns.

As most of us know by now, UNC has a critical weakness from the perimeter and while

the standard defensive answer to that is to zone, the standard offensive answers are pretty straightforward too: pound it inside or run as fast as you can.

Roy Williams likes both and he has elements for both, too. Nate Britt is turning out be a competent point guard and JP Tokoto, Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige give him some good targets.

Most intriguing, in this game anyway, is Kennedy Meeks. We haven't watched him closely, but he reminds us to a certain extent of a bigger Wes Unseld. He's not nearly the rebounder yet that Unseld was, but his build is similar and like Unseld, or more recently Kevin Love, Meeks has an absolutely gorgeous outlet pass. To an extent, that negates the need for a definitive point guard because Meeks can drop the ball in someone's hand so that they don't even have to dribble or even break stride on the way in for a layup.

Physically, we'd have to go with Kentucky, but in some other ways, UNC has a definite advantage. In a game like this, the Dean Dome is a real asset, and as we said Thursday, Kentucky hasn't really been in a situation like this yet.

Plus, aberrations like UAB aside,  UNC has in general shown more grit than Kentucky. No lock here, but we'll take UNC by a slight margin on intangibles.

As far as Notre Dame and Indiana goes, it's hard to pick against Indiana at this point. Notre Dame has some real work to do to get back on track. It's a long season, to be sure, but the Irish are digging a hole and may have trouble getting out of it.

Games for which there are no excuses for losing: Youngstown State at Pitt and FAU at Maryland.

Furman and Clemson almost make that list, except that it's an old rivalry and Furman every so often bites the Tigers. Not this time though - Clemson is improving quickly and playing fearsome defense. We're looking at this game as a growth opportunity for the Tigers.

State and Detroit could be like that, although we don't know much about Detroit.

At Wake Forest, things seem to be turning around and Dan Collins says Codi Miller-McIntyre is why. There's no comparing the kid's performance to last year's. He's vastly better.