Top 10 squads Kentucky and Louisville open Friday
Basketball season is finally here and fans in hoop-crazed
Kentucky can’t wait. There should be plenty to cheer about.
Louisville opens the season ranked ninth with coach Rick Pitino
on the brink of his 600th victory and about to pass a Cardinals’
And the beloved Wildcats were No. 2 in the preseason poll.
”It’s the time we’ve been waiting for,” said Kentucky freshman
Anthony Davis. ”We’ve been waiting for the season to start and now
it’s finally here so we’re all just amped up. We can’t wait.”
Seems everyone is amped up.
Both programs are expecting deep runs in the NCAA tournament and
are taking decidedly different early season paths.
The Cardinals will start with a stretch of 12 of 13 at home,
while Kentucky faces Marist before a weeklong trip with stops in
New York City to face No. 13 Kansas and two games in Uncasville,
Conn. as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off
The Wildcats are coming off an 85-point exhibition victory over
Division II Morehouse. Coach John Calipari wasn’t impressed.
”I’m still sticking by there’s 60, 70, 80 teams that could beat
us,” Calipari said. ”Now, I will say this: The way we played
against Morehouse, it would be hard for them. Because it wasn’t
just Morehouse. It’s how we played.”
Kentucky has looked sharp in two exhibitions with a rotation
that includes senior Darius Miller, sophomores Terrence Jones and
Doron Lamb along with freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis
Teague, Kyle Wiltjer and Davis.
Jones appears on one of the regional covers of Sports
Illustrated this week, something that he says is a reflection of
”It feels real good to be able to represent the school and the
team on something that big,” Jones said.
And Calipari said he’s fine with where his team is starting even
though he believes the Wildcats have a lot of unanswered
”Everybody doesn’t want to accept when I said it’s going to be
hard,” Calipari said. ”We just talked today: What if we want to
massage the ball? We haven’t done it yet. What do we do late shot
clock if it’s winding down? How do we get a 3? I mean, we just put
in out of bounds plays. Other teams are way, way ahead of us.”
Louisville probably is about at the same level of preparation as
Kentucky because of a rash of preseason injuries from a group that
returns 11 players from last season.
Rakeem Buckles (right knee) and Stephan Van Treese (left knee)
have not practiced this fall, while Mike Marra (back) is a week or
two from rejoining the team. Peyton Siva, the team’s starting point
guard, is expected to play on Friday after sustaining a concussion
on Oct. 27.
”We’ve struggled with leadership and Peyton’s the most vocal,”
Pitino said. ”He’s an energy guy. He brings it. Everybody has a
different leadership style and when Peyton’s around, just
everything goes better.”
Siva said he finally began feeling better over the last few days
and has been symptom free.
”It just rattled me up a little bit,” Siva said. ”I’ve had
practiced four times already and I felt pretty good out there
playing and running. I feel really good now.”
Siva also said he’s excited to help Pitino reach the 600-win
milestone, but the coach himself is less enthused.
”I wish it was 200. That’s what I wish rather than 600, because
I’d be 33, 34,” the 59-year-old Pitino said. ”It’s just great to
accomplish it at the University of Louisville, certainly, but it’s
like turning 50. Forty was more important.”
The milestone is coming earlier than expected.
Pitino had won 597 games and a national title over stops at
Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville. But it was
a 2-4 stretch credited to Pitino in 1976 after he took over Hawaii
as an interim coach that will make him the 38th or 39th Division I
coach to reach the 600-win plateau. Western Carolina’s Larry Hunter
also has a chance for the milestone win at South Carolina on Friday
”To be honest with you, I’ve never thought in terms of wins,”
But if the Cardinals beat the Skyhawks, Pitino will reach 600
wins one game faster than longtime Louisville coach Denny Crum
”As quick as he can get there would be better for us,” Siva
said. ”Because, you know, when you win around this place, it’s a
better mood for everybody.”
AP freelance writer James Pennington contributed to this report
from Lexington, Ky.