"New york, New York it's a hell of a town. The Bronx is up and I'm Brooklyn down" - Beastie Boys
While the Beastie Boys unfortunately won't be opening up for the game this evening, the house that Jay-Z built will be home to a very exciting game on opening night of the 2012-13 College Basketball Season. These two teams have been linked all summer with their recruitment for the Harrison Twins, which Kentucky ultimately won.
The Wildcats are the defending National Champions, and despite losing six players to the NBA last season, Coach John Calipari brought in another fantastic recruiting class. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein look to be another in a line of fantastic freshmen classes under Calipari at UK. Add in two transfers in Guards Julius Mays (NC State via Wright State) and Ryan Harrow (NC State), and it looks as though the Wildcats have reloaded completely.
Maryland is coming off a tough 17-15 season, and the loss of their leading scorer (Terrell Stoglin) and a bench player (Mychal Parker) who have left the program; plus, the graduation of senior Sean Mosley. The Terrapins look to be reborn under Coach Mark Turgeon, who looks to have brought in a strong freshmen class of his own. Big men Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell provide immediate depth for the Terrapins front court, while Seth Allen and Jake Layman add depth and needed shooters on the wing. Turgeon also added a pair of transfers of his own in Dez Wells (Xavier) and Logan Aronhalt (Albany).
Kentucky is a ten-point favorite tonight on a neutral court against the Terrapins, and rightfully so. Noel was considered the top prospect in the country last season, and while he isn't fully developed on the offensive end, he could turn out to be one of the best defensive players in the country this season, despite being a freshman. Sounds awfully familiar, no?
The comparisons between Noel and 2012 No. 1 Pick Anthony Davis have been made all summer and will continue to be made, but that doesn't mean fans should be expecting the immediate production from Noel that Davis saw, but time will tell.
Poythress and Goodwin are two athletic players on the wing, and also happened to be top-15 recruits. The pair are athletically gifted, and both have the ability to knock down the occasional open jump shots. Meanwhile, Cauley-Stein is another athletic big man at Calipari's disposal.
For Maryland, it will be tough to replace the scoring Terrell Stoglin provided, but the constant headache he provided his coaches and fellow players should be a welcomed relief. Maryland does have a strong cast coming back from last season. Assuming Pe'Shon Howard can stay healthy, he should be locked as the starting point guard all season long. Nick Faust looks to make the transition to leading man this year after the departures of Stoglin and Mosley. Well, that is unless Alex Len, the 7-footer from Ukraine, takes a step up in production this year.