No. 2 Kentucky hosts Marist is 2011-12 lidlifter

The second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats are 12, and they begin the campaign with what appears to be a monumental mismatch against the Marist Red Foxes.

Head coach Chuck Martin has struggled mightily to build a successful program at Marist. In three seasons he has won a total of just 17 games, while dropping 79, and doesn't have a single double-digit scorer returning from a roster that won only six games all of last season. On the road, Marist won just once a year ago, and most fans and analysts expect the club to finish at or near the bottom of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings this season.

For the third consecutive year, John Calipari welcomes the nation's top recruiting class to Kentucky, the most obvious reason that the team remains a legitimate national title contender despite the departure of an elite player. Last season, the Wildcats won 29 games and reached the Final Four with a young lineup, and there are some notable holdovers ready to take care of unfinished business. The SEC is loaded with talent, so the Wildcats will certainly be battle-tested come March.

This game marks the first-ever meeting between Marist and Kentucky on the hardwood.

Sam Prescott (11.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), who had some eligibility issues early on at Marist, decided that it was best to move on and transfer, a move that was mirrored by Candon Rusin (7.8 ppg) and Menelik Watson (4.7 ppg). Those moves have cleared the way for some of last year's reserves to now gain some significant playing time, beginning in tonight's opener. Even though he played in just 19 games last year and started only 13, R.J. Hall is considered a key piece of the puzzle after he tallied 9.2 ppg and delivered 51 assists in limited minutes. Dorvell Carter (7.7 ppg) is the top returning scorer among the starters for the Red Foxes. Devin Price (7.2 ppg) and Jay Bowie (6.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) will likey see their roles increase as well. One of the lowest scoring teams in the country last season with just 60.0 ppg, Marist also had a hard time slowing down the competition as it ranked 329th nationally with a minus-12.2 scoring margin.

There are a total of 11 players on the Preseason First and Second Team All-SEC squads, and four of those individuals are Kentucky Wildcats, including the Preseason Player of the Year, Terrence Jones. A 6-9 sophomore with freakish athletic ability, Jones averaged 15.7 ppg last season while pulling down 8.8 rpg, and the fact that he also posted 72 blocks and 43 steals is proof of his defensive prowess. He will be joined up front by 6-10 freshman Anthony Davis, widely considered to be one of the elite recruits in the nation. There is significant strength in the backcourt as well, as both Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are capable of significant contributions. Lamb shot 48.6 percent from three-point range last season and finished with 12.3 ppg, while Miller brings back 10.9 ppg and a wealth of leadership.