Highlights from North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ press conference previewing Saturday’s game against Kentucky:
• On the magnitude of the Kentucky series: Nowadays it’s not as important as it was five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago because those times you didn’t see these kinds of matchups. Now with the tournaments going on you see these kinds of matchups and exempt events or special one-day events or two-day events, you see a lot of those things. So to me it’s still important, but it’s not like it used to be. ... It used to be the first Saturday in December and you knew North Carolina and Kentucky were going to play. Well, now we’ve already played Louisville and Michigan State -- two of the top three teams. Kentucky has already played Michigan State and (Baylor). Kansas has played Duke, (Duke) has played Arizona. It’s so many of those matchups you didn’t used to have, so I think it’s probably lost a little bit of that because it used to be the only one that there was. Now those top 10 matchups are every week now in the preseason.
• On which lineup has been the most productive: I haven’t changed the starting lineup very much. It’s strange because Kennedy (Meeks) and Brice (Johnson) gives us a lot more offensively and a lot less defensively. Desmond (Hubert) gives you a lot defensively and a lot less offensively. When we go big sometimes with Marcus (Paige) at the 2 and James Michael (McAdoo) at the 3 it gives us more size but not nearly as much ball-handling as we have with Nate and Marcus both in the game. There’s no lineup that I’m married to every game. I was really frustrated with some of our inside play defensive a couple of games. But again, Kennedy and Brice have an ability to score and so you’ve got to balance out are they making you end up on the positive side.
• On UNC's current record: 6-2 is about, as I said the other day, probably where everybody thought we were going to be. It’s just the makeup of which games you won and which games you lost.
• On what keeps Joel James in the starting lineup: He’s consistently done some really good things defensively. He was the defensive player of the game against Michigan State. He had a good defensive grade against UNCG. He gives us again the size and the power to help control the rim area quite a bit better than we did last year. He is a project, which is OK. I love that part of him. Sometimes a project’s patience isn’t what it should be, but that’s OK, too. I keep telling him Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worked on every day.
• On what impresses him about Kentucky: Their ability. John (Calipari's) ability, the way he’s got them playing together. Freshmen coming in with all the hoopla that they had tend to try to live up to that. I think John has proven several years, many years, that he can get highly skilled players and get them to focus on the team aspect of it. I think that, I was just looking down here (at stats), now 129 assists, 132 turnovers. You watch them during the course of the season, that stat is going to get a heck of a lot better because a lot of those turnovers are attributed to being freshmen. But they are an unselfish bunch. That part is going to get better and better and better.