THREE TO WATCH: Jackson, Berry and Pinson

T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst
Cats Illustrated

Another tournament game, another significant rematch for Kentucky. The Cats did just enough to beat North Carolina in an epic game back in December, but both teams have changed and this time there's a spot for the Final Four on the line.

The Tar Heels will be fueled by Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson.



Justin Jackson: The 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward is averaging 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Jackson would have been the star of the first meeting if not for Malik Monk. The junior finished with 34 points.

Joel Berry II: The 6-foot, 190-pound junior is averaging 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. After a horrible game in the round of 32 Berry bounced back in a big way with 26 points on Friday night.

Theo Pinson: The 6-foot-6, 211-pound junior is averaging 5.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Pinson is the defensive stopper for the Tar Heels and didn't play in the first meeting against UK.


Justin Jackson: Jackson is a mismatch nightmare for Kentucky, and every team in college basketball. UK didn't have a player that could guard him in Vegas and we'll see what John Calipari decides to do on Sunday. Jackson is a pure scorer that is comfortable on the perimeter, but will also use his size to his advantage. Jackson's length on defense is troubling but he's better offensively.

Joel Berry II: Berry may be the key for the Tar Heels. He's a good scorer that can take it to the elite level. When he's feeling it North Carolina is tough to beat. Berry is a do-it-all point guard that can shoot from the outside, drive to the rim and is a solid passer. He won't overwhelm anyone with his speed or athleticism but is crafty with how he uses his body.

Theo Pinson: If Pinson is scoring the Cats may be in trouble because he's strictly known for his defense. He's long, he's active and he spends all of his energy and effort trying to shut down the other team's best player. It's impressive to watch Pinson defend because he does a great job not fouling.


Justin Jackson: Jackson can be streaky and he will take questionable shots if he feels pressured. His biggest weakness is he will try to do too much and if he's not having an on night it can hurt the Tar Heels. But he's usually dialed in for big games and although he may take some questionable shots, he's a smart player that doesn't make a ton of mistakes.

Joel Berry II: Berry is an inconsistent scorer and similar to Jackson where he may try to do too much. He's also had stretches where he's been very careless with the ball, although that was more in the middle of the season. Berry isn't a great defender and Kentucky should be able to go after him.

Theo Pinson: Pinson is virtually a non-factor on offense. He's great at defense but Roy Williams is well aware that when he has Pinson in the game they are eliminating an offensive weapon. Pinson also isn't a great rebounder.


Justin Jackson: Derek Willis. What? Willis has been much better defensively as of late and after a slow start against UCLA he clamped down in the second half. This will without a doubt be his toughest task in his long college career. UK doesn't need to shut down Jackson but they can't let things come easy. If Willis is locked in that's a possibility.

Joel Berry II: De'Aaron Fox. UK may want to go Briscoe or Hawkins to really shut Berry down, but Fox seems to be up for the challenged based on what we've seen this tournament. You may hear about Berry being banged up in the first meeting and coming off an injury. Don't buy it. He did miss the two games prior but played 35 minutes against the Cats and played well. Any UNC fan would take his December performance on Sunday.

Theo Pinson: Malik Monk. Monk will do just fine defensively against Pinson but can Pinson shut down Monk? That's the big question and the one that may decide the game. Monk won't score 47 on Sunday but could Pinson hold him to under 15? If the answer is yes it's going to be tough for Kentucky to win.

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