By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky and Duke open the college basketball season Nov. 6 in Indianapolis, it will be what UK coach John Calipari calls a “hard game” for both teams.
“They’ve got young guys. It’s just a hard game out of the gate playing a program that has really good players and is really well-coached and is not intimidated by the scenery, and that’s who we play right out of the gate,” Calipari said at Monday’s Media Day.
“But it also wakes you up early in the morning. You’ve got to — you just know that let’s not get too far ahead. And at this point, I can’t tell you exactly what we’ll have in. We won’t have everything in. But we’re going to have enough to try to say, this is how we’ll play this game, and hopefully we have enough in that we can compete with that team playing with what we have in.”
Calipari joked that by March Madness, the UK-Duke game would be “just another game for us at that point unless we win” and then said it would be a “huge” win
“But the reality of it is, it is so early, it’s a game that we’ll learn about where we are at that point, and so will they. Where are they and where they need to go,” the UK coach said. “But you’d have to ask the guys. I mean, I’m not sure like what would Reid (Travis) think about playing Duke? What would these young kids think about playing Duke?
“The rivalry is probably because we’re two good programs. I just hate — it didn’t matter if it was Duke or whoever it was, playing them that early. What does it mean in March? I don’t know.”
He does know that both teams will be much better in March just like UCLA and UK were two years ago when they played in December and then met again in the Mach.
“We were a totally different team and we could play different, we had figured ourselves out. We weren’t a bunch of young kids then,” he said.
Sophomore center Nick Richards knows UK-Duke will be one of the most viewed games of the year. That’s fine with him.
“When people think of basketball schools, they think of Duke and Kentucky. So we’re really excited and I’m just happy to be playing basketball for Kentucky again,” he said.
Walk-on senior Johnny David said he felt his teammates were just excited to see the season start Friday night with Big Blue Madness and go from there.
“We’re still working on ourselves right now. It’s a game (against Duke). We’ll still have our preseason games before that and it will be a good test right out of the gate,” David said.
David noted UK fans view Duke as a much bigger rival than the Kentucky players do.
“As a player you kind of just think, ‘OK. It’s a game.’ You try to just play the best you can and win, but I’d say people like to build it up and stuff like that,” David said. “We’re here just getting better every day and it should be a good game.”