Kentucky vs. Maryland: Young Wildcats Squad Will Struggle Early in Season

Darin PikeContributor INovember 9, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 05:  Nerlens Noel #3  of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the exhibition game against the Transylvania Pioneers at Rupp Arena on November 5, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats face the Maryland Terrapins in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday, Nov. 9, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

There are lofty goals being placed on John Calipari's team, but early expectations for the defending national champions should be tempered.

Kentucky has immense talent on its team. As the players mature and develop chemistry, this should be a very good team. But against the Terrapins, don't expect the kind of dominance Kentucky portrayed through most of the 2011-12 season.

Dick Vitale is certainly excited, though:

Preparing 4 my 1st game Maryland vs Kentucky -Friday @ Barclays Center-Cats Archie Goodwin is a young @russwes44 WOW - according to Calipari

— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) November 5, 2012

The Wildcats were able to win with young talent last season. The team's top scorers were freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague along with sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones. All five players, along with senior Darius Miller, are now in the NBA.

Calipari reloads this season with freshmen Archie Goodwin (G), Nerlens Noel (F), Alex Poythress (F) and Willie-Cauley Stein (C). They are talented, but he is building almost an entire team from scratch in 2012.

Add in a pair of transfer students (Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays) that are expected to contribute at guard, and the Wildcats could fill the floor with players new to the program.

Last season, Kentucky had the luxury of three established players playing with three freshmen. The carryover from the prior season helped with continuity and allowed the team to be ready for the opening tip.

That won't be the case this season.

Calipari is aware of the issue and seems nervous about how his players will respond early in the season (via Fox Sports):

We'll see if we're ready to beat a basketball team. I'm just not sure; they're going to have to show me. We haven't done much situational work. Up eight (points), down eight, up three, down three. We just haven't had time.

You can try to talk these guys and mush their minds by trying to go three-and-a-half hours a day, try to get everything in before you play. But we're just not there.

Kentucky has ample time to prepare for conference play, but if the Wildcats struggle against Maryland and drop their second game against Duke, fans shouldn't wonder if the sky is falling. 

Young teams need time to gel and make the transition to college ball. Calipari will get them there.

They'll just need a little time.


Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.