Mark Turgeon took John Calipari by surprise the first time they met. Calipari, then an assistant at Kansas, had scarcely heard of the diminutive Jayhawks guard when Turgeon came up and introduced himself.
"I remember him coming up to a table when we were having breakfast and Larry Brown had gotten the job and he said 'I'm better than any point guard you have on your team,'" Calipari said. "We didn't know who he was. It was like 'What's your name?' He was confident, a little, 145-pound kid telling us this."
Now the head coach at Maryland, Turgeon has a team big enough to push Kentucky around.
The Terrapins' front line includes a rangy 7-footer and pair of 6-foot-8 forwards that can knock the Wildcats around in ways their two exhibition opponents couldn't.
"They're going to play hard," freshman forward Alex Poythress said. "They're big and going to try to jam you in the post. But if we play like we should, then we should be fine."
Maryland also has sophomore guard Dez Wells, a transfer from Xavier who was recruited by UK before picking Maryland. He averaged 9.8 points for the Musketeers last season and was declared eligible to play immediately on Wednesday.
"He will make Maryland now, legitimately, one of those teams," Calipari said. "They were good enough and they needed that one guy. He's that guy. He's that good."
The Wildcats, on the other hand, could be shorthanded.
Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow did not practice on Wednesday with flu-like symptoms. Senior guard Julius Mays also sat out as a precaution to limit stress on his hyperextended knee. There's a chance neither will be available to play on Friday, Calipari said.
In their place, junior guard Jarrod Polson and freshman guard Archie Goodwin would split time running the point. Calipari said he's comfortable playing Polson extended minutes if necessary.
Poythress wasn't concerned about Mays' status for Friday. He has more to worry about from Maryland's men up front.
Calipari expects Maryland to test UK quickly, posting the ball up early and often. He would have preferred to put a couple regular season games behind him before facing Turgeon's team, but playing a game early will help him find out where his team is.
"Our big guys have their hands full," Calipari said. "If you think you're just going to play, you're going to get screened first. Or your man is going to screen and then they're posting your man. They put you in tough situations and they're executing."
Site: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV: ESPN (Dave O'Brien play-by-play, Dick Vitale analyst)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); XM 91.
Favorite: Kentucky by 13
Series record: Kentucky leads 7-5
At neutral sites: Kentucky leads 3-2
Coaches' records: Calipari 4-3 vs. Maryland; Turgeon 0-0 vs. UK
Last meeting: Maryland 78, Kentucky 68 (March 22, 2002; NCAA East Regional Semifinal, Syracuse, N.Y.)
Juan Dixon scored 19 points to lead the No. 1 seed Terrapins to a win against the No. 4 seed Wildcats. Kentucky got 17 points from Tayshaun Prince in his final game at UK and 15 from Keith Bogans. Kentucky raced out to an 8-2 lead, but Maryland, led 39-33 and never trailed in the second half. Lonny Baxter scored 16 points for Maryland. The Terrapins advanced to play Connecticut in the Regional Final and went on to win the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Keys to the Game
1. Wells Up: On Wednesday, the NCAA overturned its earlier ruling that Maryland guard Dez Wells would have to sit out this season after transferring from Xavier. The new decision means that Wells is eligible immediately, and he can play for the Terrapins against Kentucky. That adds a little extra spark to Friday's game. Wells, who averaged 9.8 points per game last season for the Musketeers, also visited UK before deciding on Maryland.
2. Fresh Faces: We're accustomed to Kentucky reloading its roster, and the Wildcats didn't disappoint this time around. Six UK players - four freshmen plus transfers Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays - who didn't play for the Cats last season are expected to play significant minutes this time around. But Maryland did some retooling of its own. The Terps have nine newcomers, including 6-8, 260-pound freshman forward Charles Mitchell, a Rivals Top 100 player last season.
3. Men in the Middle: Keep an eye on the post on Friday. Maryland has no shortage of size, starting with sophomore Alex Len, a much-improved 7-foot-1, 225-pounder. He'll create an early challenge for UK's defensive-minded freshman Nerlens Noel, who showed good progress in preseason.