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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Duke readies for reloaded Wildcats

By ESPN Stats & Information

(The No. 9 Duke Blue Devils face the defending national champion No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday at 9:30 ET on ESPN.)

Kentucky had six players -- including all five starters -- drafted in the first two rounds of the 2012 NBA draft. That’s the most for any school in the first two rounds of a draft in the common draft era.


So how are the Wildcats ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll?

That lofty ranking reflects head coach John Calipari's ability to recruit wave after wave of the nation's most highly regarded high school talent to Lexington. He had the No. 2 recruiting class of 2012, according to ESPN 100, and that might have been a "down" year because Kentucky had the No. 1 ranked class in 2009, 2010, 2011 and currently has the top-ranked class for 2013. This year’s class is the fourth straight year that Calipari has at least four of the top 100 recruits in the country.

That recruiting success is paying off on the the court. Calipari has won 103 games in three-plus seasons at Kentucky. The Wildcats’ 103 wins are the most in Division I since Calipari took over in Lexington. (The only other school with at least 100 wins is Kansas.) Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke have the third-most wins over that span with 95.

Kyle Wiltjer is the only returning player for Kentucky who averaged more than five minutes per game last season. Wiltjer shot 45.8 percent on catch-and-shoot plays last season, good for fifth in the SEC.

Largely because of the talent around him, Wiltjer excelled on unguarded catch-and-shoot plays, attempting 45 of his 71 catch-and-shoot field goals while unguarded. When he was unguarded last season, Wiltjer shot better than 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent behind the 3-point line. When guarded, Wiltjer’s shooting percentage dropped to 34.6 and made only 36 percent of his 3s.

While Kentucky lost all five starters from last season, Duke lost just one -- Austin Rivers.

Senior Mason Plumlee had three offensive rebounds in Duke’s season-opening win against Georgia State. Last season he ranked fifth in the ACC averaging 2.9 offensive rebounds per game. The question this season will be can he convert those offensive boards into points?

According to Statsheet.com, Plumlee shot 41.7 percent on put-back plays in 2011-12, which ranked 57th out of 66 ACC players with at least 10 such plays.

On the perimeter for Duke, Seth Curry is one of the league’s best deep threats. Since joining the Blue Devils in the 2010-11 season, Curry has made 128 3-point field goals, which ranks fifth among ACC players.

This is the earliest the Blue Devils have faced a team ranked in the top three since Nov. 12, 1999, when they lost to No. 1 Connecticut. Duke has lost four straight games against AP Top 3 teams and does not have a nonconference win over a top-three opponent since a 97-66 win over No. 2 Texas in December of 2005.

The Wildcats have won a Division I record 2,091 games. They are one of three Division I teams with at least 2,000 wins and Duke could be the fourth member of that club if it can win 28 more games this season.

Kentucky leads the all-time series 11-8, but Duke has won six of the past seven, including four of five with Krzyzewski as Duke’s head coach.) Three of the past four meetings were decided by three points or fewer.