New-look Kentucky begins title defense against Maryland
by Kyle Tucker, The Courier-Journal
LEXINGTON, KY. — Although most college basketball teams ease into their schedules, one might expect the defending NCAA champion not to — unless that team is the forever-young University of Kentucky and it’s trying to replace the top six players from last season’s squad. And yet the Wildcats, ranked third to start their title defense despite the heavy losses, will dive in head first Friday night against Maryland.
“I’d rather have a game or two under our belt before we played it,” coach John Calipari said. “But the reality of it is this team is so young, let’s learn right away: Here’s where we are; here’s where we’re not.”
UK, which could start three freshmen and two sophomores, none of whom started a game last season, will tackle the Terrapins in Brooklyn’s brand-new, billion-dollar Barclays Center. The game is in prime time and will be televised on ESPN.
Calipari, whose team helped raise nearly a million dollars for victims of Superstorm Sandy during a two-hour telethon Wednesday night, noted that the storm caused a cancellation of the New York City Marathon.
“I was hoping they’d cancel this game,” he joked. “But I guess we’re going to have to go up there and play it.”
Complicating matters, Calipari said point guard Ryan Harrow and shooting guard Julius Mays are questionable for tonight. Harrow has “some sort of flu or something,” and Mays is recovering from a hyperextended knee he suffered in the team’s final exhibition game Monday night. Both sat out Wednesday’s practice.
The Wildcats already were working with just a seven-man rotation. Maryland, meanwhile, appears primed for a return to the NCAA Tournament after scratching its way to a 17-15 record last season. Second-year coach Mark Turgeon has infused the Terps with several talented newcomers, signing a consensus top-15 recruiting class and adding Xavier transfer Dez Wells.
Wells, a 6-foot-5 guard who recently won an NCAA appeal to become eligible immediately, was good … [For more on New-look Kentucky begins title defense against Maryland, click here.]