Kentucky begins title defense against Maryland

The defending national champions begin defense of their title as the third-ranked team in the country, when the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Maryland Terrapins in an intriguing season-opener from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Mark Turgeon heads into his second season at the helm in College Park, after a debut campaign that featured a 17-15 overall record. The Terrapins lose some serious firepower from that squad, and just how well the newcomers gel with the existing talent will determine how the 2012-13 season will pan out for Maryland.

John Calipari finally put it all together in 2011-12, taking a young, but extremely talented roster and leading them to a national title. There were certainly a ton of memorable moments along the way, as Anthony Davis was tabbed the National Player of the Year and was the top pick in last year's NBA Draft. Three other Wildcats followed Davis in the first-round, leaving Calipari with a similar task in 2012-13, molding a young and talented team into a champion.

Kentucky holds an 8-5 edge in the all-time series, but Maryland has closed the gap a bit with two straight wins, including a Sweet 16 victory en route to the 2002 NCAA Championship.

Mark Turgeon finished his debut season with a winning record, although that was not the case in-conference, where the Terrapins finished a distant eighth (6-10) in the ACC. Maryland no longer possesses a player that can take over a game the way Terrell Stoglin (21.6 ppg) could a year ago. To make matters worse in the backcourt, the Terps must also replace Sean Mosley (10.2 ppg). The offense will now funnel through junior Pe'Shon Howard, if he can remain healthy for a full season. Nick Faust (8.9 ppg) is a solid option at the two- guard, and can fill in at point should the need arise. The frontcourt features 6-8 James Padgett (8.8 ppg) and seven-footer Alex Len (6.0 ppg), but it is freshman Shaquille Cleare, who could become Maryland's next star. The 6-10, 285-pound youngster averaged 26.5 points and 10.0 rebounds as a high school senior last year.

The Wildcats finished as the nation's top team last season, posting an impressive 38-2 record en route to the program's eighth national championship. To repeat, UK will do so with an almost entirely new set of stars, as all five starters from last year are gone, including lottery picks Davis (14.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.7 bpg) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Calipari has never shied away from giving his freshmen plenty of exposure and that won't change in 2012-13. Heralded freshman Nerlens Noel (6-10 freshman) will get the opportunity to shine right from the get-go. Archie Goodwin (6-4, 198) was a McDonald's All-America selection, as was Alex Poythress (6-7, 239) and both are slated to start. The rich get richer via transfer as well, with former Wright State guard Julius Mays (14.1 ppg) added to the mix.