Kentucky, Maryland open in Brooklyn
I am so excited to be kicking off my 34th year calling college basketball games for ESPN. Wow, it is unbelievable to see how the time has flown by. The juices are still flowing and I cannot wait to get to courtside to call Friday night's game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Maryland Terrapins at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
It is a "new look" Wildcats squad after the top six scorers landed in the NBA. Most coaches would be thrilled to get one player chosen in the first round. It's like John Calipari has had a fast food drive-in window, which says one-and-done and off to the NBA, baby!
All Kentucky has done is produce 10 first-rounders and four in round two over the last three years, and all of them are on NBA rosters. The four second-rounders -- Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins -- all made it to the next level.
That's talent galore and the beat goes on.
Don't worry about Calipari; this year's team is loaded again. Yes, it is young, and the question is, will they blend as a unit as they have in the past? Will the Wildcats play defense the way that prior editions have? They will have that name on the front of the jersey -- KENTUCKY -- and Big Blue Nation will be fired up.
Anybody who believes the opener against Maryland is cupcake city can forget about it. I spoke to Terps coach Mark Turgeon and he feels his team, which won 17 games in a tough situation last year (post-Gary Williams, plus Jordan Williams went to the NBA early), will be better. He feels the Terps are deeper and more talented. Turgeon also likes his four diaper dandies coming in.
That could spell trouble for Maryland's opponents. The team was picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recently told me the Terps will be a very dangerous team. He likes guard Nick Faust and the potential of big man Alex Len.
Add those two to healthy guard P'Shon Howard, who is coming back from knee surgery. Turgeon said Howard looks 100 percent healthy to him. Maryland also has the rebounding ability of James Padgett. Three-point shooting wizard Logan Aronholt, a transfer from Albany, will provide a spark.
Turgeon is also excited about his freshmen. Seth Allen was the leading scorer in an exhibition game and could contribute in the backcourt. Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell will also be heard from. Shaquille Cleare has potential up front.
Don't be surprised to see Maryland utilize a nine-man rotation. Former Xavier player Dez Wells was just cleared to play, so watch out.
If you bring in a big-time athlete with those others, they could do some damage in the ACC. The future is bright in College Park with a good recruiting class for next year plus the addition of transfer Evan Smotrycz from Michigan, who gives them great size. The program is in good hands with Turgeon.
It is also worth noting that Turgeon was a point guard at Kansas when a young coach named Calipari was on the Jayhawk staff. Turgeon said that Calipari has not changed one bit, yelling for players to work hard on defense and showing his great passion. Will Turgeon be a big fan of Calipari come Friday night?
Kentucky-Maryland should be an interesting game.
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