Preview: Duke v. Kentucky
This story originally published on TheDevilsDen.com
Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel

Posted Nov 13, 2012


Previewing the Blue Devils and Wildcats who tip off tonight in Atlanta

On the court, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari have met just once during their lengthy careers.

Off the court, Calipari seems to be winning many recruiting battles against Krzyzewski and other top coaches as he did in gaining the services of heralded freshman Alex Poythress.

Poythress chose to play for Calipari and No. 3 Kentucky over Krzyzewski and No. 9 Duke, and the forward will try to bounce back from a rough debut when these teams meet Tuesday night at the Georgia Dome.

The only time these coaches met was in the 2005 NIT Season Tip-Off championship, when a top-ranked Duke team beat Calipari and Memphis, 70-67.

Both coaches have won national titles since then, with Krzyzewski earning his fourth and Calipari notching his first with Kentucky last season.

There's a case to be made that Calipari may be the most popular coach among recruits currently because of the number of NBA players he has coached in his first three seasons at Kentucky (1-0). His national championship team produced six NBA draft picks this year -- four in the first round -- and the Wildcats' following now includes celebrities like rap superstar Jay-Z, who attended Friday's season-opening 72-69 win over Maryland in Brooklyn.

"Jay-Z was courtside and a lot of people don't get the opportunity to play with Jay-Z courtside," freshman guard Archie Goodwin said. With all that in mind, it's probably not a surprise that the 6-foot-7 Poythress picked Kentucky over Duke (1-0) after an intense recruiting battle between these coaches that drew plenty of attention from these rabid fan bases.

Poythress had a subpar Kentucky debut last Friday, getting into foul trouble and finishing with eight points and seven boards. Calipari said he expects better from him Tuesday.

The coach has three freshmen in his starting lineup heading into this matchup of storied programs. Kentucky has won 11 of 19 meetings, with Duke taking the last two in 1998 and 2001.

"I think that rivalry's still there because it's two top programs," Duke forward Ryan Kelly said. "Perennially both teams are vying for championships."

The Wildcats' inexperienced frontcourt, anchored by freshman center Nerlens Noel, was outrebounded 54-38 in the opener. That could pose a problem against Duke's senior forward tandem of the 6-11 Kelly and 6-10 Mason Plumlee.

On the perimeter, the Blue Devils have experience with senior Seth Curry and junior Tyler Thornton complementing freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.

"We're really excited about it," Curry said. "It's going to be a good test for us and we'll see what we need to improve on."

Plumlee had 19 points and Curry 15 in Friday's season-opening 74-55 home victory over Georgia State.

It appears that Kentucky starting guard Ryan Harrow will not play due to the flu. That means former walk-on Jarrod Polson will likely make his first start.

Polson was impressive with 10 points and three assists in 22 minutes against the Terrapins, and Calipari says he has confidence in the junior.

"I just know if I get my number called again I will have to be ready," Polson said. "I have been working hard in practice the last couple days so hopefully I will be ready."


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