LEXINGTON, Ky. - In his fourth year in this Mecca of college basketball, coach John Calipari is slacking off. He has just one Kentucky Mr. Basketball on his roster.
And there's this: Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats are outside the Associated Press Top 25 for the third week in a row. Oh, the horror!
Has Marshall, entering Rupp Arena for a 4 p.m. tip today, caught a break and facing the Wildcats on a rare down slope? The polls think so - even the coaches have downgraded UK to 23rd, 12 spots behind Marshall's opponent of a week ago, Cincinnati.
Certainly, the defending national champions are human. The Wildcats (7-3) lost on Nov. 13 to Duke, which is no sin, but then finished the month and started December with a loss at Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor. Neither team was ranked, and in the following AP poll, neither was Kentucky.
All that provides the Thundering Herd (7-5) zero comfort. Maybe less than that - the Wildcats have resharpened their game by savaging Samford (88-56), pummeling Portland (74-46) and lashing Lipscomb (88-50). A mauling of Marshall could put the Wildcats back in the Top 25, media-wise.
But you must know two things about this UK team: It is awfully young, again, and outrageously talented.
Again. For his latest recruiting stunt, Calipari brought in two Mr. Basketball award winners and the USA Today player of the year.
"They're a lot better now than they were a couple of weeks ago," said Herd coach Tom Herrion. "With a coach like Coach Cal, they'll get better and better."
That national player of the year is Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-10, 228-pound native of Everett, Mass. He averages 10.7 points and has team highs in blocks (39) and steals (28), and his 21 assists attests to his ability to dish out to an open shooter.
Noel could be the man-child of the bunch, or it could be Tennessee Mr. Basketball Alex Poythress. At 6-7, 239, you can throw out the distinction between small and power forward because he can do both simultaneously. He averages 15 points and 6.2 rebounds, but his big number is a .652 shooting percentage, sixth in the nation after last weekend.