vs. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Barclays Center Classic - Brooklyn, NY
Tip-off: Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: Kentucky -13, Total: 137
No. 3 Kentucky will start its national title defense with a brand new team in a brand new building when the Wildcats take on Maryland in Brooklyn, NY Friday night as part of the Barclays Center Classic.
Kentucky lost its top six players, accounting for more than 90% of its scoring, from last year’s championship team. But once again, head coach John Calipari has brought in the nation’s best recruiting class. With a fresh crop of freshman last year, Kentucky won its first three games, SU and ATS, including a neutral court win over Kansas, the same team they met in the national title game. Maryland enters the year with a more veteran squad, but without last year’s ACC scoring champ Terrell Stoglin (21.6 PPG). The Terrapins went 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS against ranked opponents last season, their first under head coach Mark Turgeon.
Can the new class of Wildcats cover a big spread in their debut? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Last season, the StatFox group had a combined 65% ATS (206-110-4) success rate in college basketball Best Bets. StatFox Scott led the way at an amazing 71% ATS (56-23-1) followed closely behind by StatFox Gary (68% ATS), StatFox Brian (62% ATS) and StatFox Dave (60% ATS).
Kentucky will likely start four newcomers in this game. C Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-10 rebounding and shot-blocking force with a high-top fade and a 7-foot-4 wingspan, is its most highly regarded newcomer. He’s considered more raw on the offensive end than Anthony Davis was a year ago. Fellow freshmen PF Alex Poythress, a bruising power forward, and SG Archie Goodwin, who had a team-high 22 points in their exhibition opener, join Noel in the starting five. Transfer Ryan Harrow (9.3 PPG, 3.3 APG for N.C. State two seasons ago) and 6-foot-10 sophomore three-point specialist Kyle Wiltjer (43.2% 3-pt FG) will have to take on bigger offensive roles.
Maryland brought in a top-20 recruiting class of its own, headed by C Shaquille Cleare, but the Terps have much more of a veteran presence coming back than the Wildcats do. SG Nick Faust (8.9 PPG) emerged as a solid secondary scoring option at the end of his freshman year (13.4 PPG over his last nine games) and 7-foot-1 C Alex Len, considered a potential NBA first-rounder, added 30-plus pounds over the offseason. PG Pe’Shon Howard (6.5 PPG, 3.7 APG) returns after tearing his ACL last February. And there’s buzz surrounding transfer Dez Wells (9.8 PPG on 50.4% FG for Xavier last season). A long, athletic wing, Wells came on strong late in his freshman year, including a 19-point performance at Memphis last February and a 14-point, 11-rebound night in the Musketeers’ first NCAA Tournament win over Notre Dame.