College basketball odds: Kentucky vs. Maryland

John Calipari’s newest stellar freshman class will debut Friday night at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn as the Wildcats begin defense of their national title with a big challenge vs. Maryland. UK is a solid favorite on WagerWeb.com for the first-ever college basketball game at the arena.

When Mark Turgeon took over the Terrapins in 2011, Calipari called and proposed a game: Maryland-Kentucky in 2012 at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center. Maryland would get national exposure, an ESPN broadcast against a team that would win the national title and three home games as part of the Barclays Center Classic.

“It was a no-brainer,” Turgeon said. “As a friend he didn’t have to do that, but he wanted to help our program.”

Playing on a neutral floor helped sweeten the deal. Kentucky hasn’t lost at Rupp Arena since Calipari took over. But don’t expect the marquee matchup to continue into future seasons.

“This is the last time we’ll do something like this,” Turgeon said.

Maryland will play its second season under Turgeon, who left Texas A&M to succeed Gary Williams. The Terps were 17-15 a season ago, but could be improved with the return of sophomore 7-footer Alex Len and classmate Nick Faust.

Faust, an All-ACC Freshman Team selection last year, had a strong second half of his rookie season. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game over the final nine contests, including a season-high 19 in the ACC Tournament win over Wake Forest. For the year, Faust averaged 8.9 points per game while splitting time between point and shooting guard.

A recruiting class rated in the top 20 nationally by analysts includes four-star prospects Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman, and three-star prospects Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell. The addition of Albany transfer Logan Aronhalt gives the Terps yet another new player in the fold.

UK has the nation’s No. 2 freshman class and No. 1 recruit in Nerlens Noel, who will be expected to fill the shoes of Anthony Davis from Day 1. Noel is joined by stud recruits Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot center, forward Alex Poythress and guard Archie Goodwin.

The only returning player who played much for Kentucky last season is sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, who played 11.6 minutes per game. He was a good 3-pointer shooter in his limited minutes. Calipari also brought in two transfers: guard Julian Mays, a redshirt senior from Wright State, and guard Ryan Harrow, a redshirt sophomore from NC State. They are the only players on UK’s roster with double-digit starts in their college careers.

This will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2001, when Maryland defeated UK in the Sweet 16 en route to a national championship. Incidentally, UK and Maryland were recently involved in a fierce recruiting battle over twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison of Richmond (Texas) Travis High. They picked UK. Andrew is the top point guard and No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, while Aaron is the No. 4 overall player and top-rated shooting guard in the country. The pair immediately boosted Kentucky’s recruiting class from unranked in the top 25 to No. 1 overall.

WagerWeb.com trends: Terrapins are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 vs. Southeastern. Terrapins are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games. Terrapins are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 road games. Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games. Wildcats are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 Friday games. Wildcats are 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 vs. Atlantic Coast.

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