As homecomings go, Kentucky freshman point guard Marquis Teague does not expect a warm and fuzzy Saturday at Indiana.
"I know when I come out, they're going to boo me a lot, and things like that," he said with a smile Friday.
Teague, a McDonald's All-American from Indianapolis, made Hoosiers fans see red by choosing to play for Kentucky rather than Indiana.
"I just tell them I feel like Kentucky was the best for me," he said of the decision. "When they say something negative, you just can't pay attention to it."
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If the game in Bloomington two years ago is any guide, Indiana fans will have plenty of negativity to direct at Teague, Coach John Calipari and all things Kentucky.
"I've been there my whole life," Teague said of growing up in Indiana. "I know how much they hate (UK). It's going to be very intense."
Though undefeated, Indiana is also unranked. An early-season schedule ranked 250th-toughest in the nation by collegerpi.com leaves the Hoosiers on the outside looking in on college basketball's elite. A victory over Kentucky would represent a turning point for a once-proud program mired in mediocrity since the NCAA and Ma Bell conspired to sink the Kelvin Sampson era.
In likening the atmosphere in Assembly Hall to what North Carolina faced in Rupp Arena last weekend, Calipari said, dryly, "Should be a festive crowd, I would say."
How Teague and UK handle the festivities in this first game on the opponent's court remains to be seen.
When a reporter suggested UK might not react well if adversity occurs on the court, Calipari said, "Could be.
"That's why you do these games. If that's the case, you find out. ... This shows us where we are. It's not like you have to win the game. But you want to know where are we because we have some time. We have a month (until Southeastern Conference play)."
As for Teague, who has a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last five games (24 to 11), Calipari acknowledged the chore the freshman faces.
"Going to be hard," Calipari said. "It's going to be a tough challenge. You just don't want it to get into back- and-forth: He scored on me, now I'm going to score on him. You can't do that, not in these type of games."
Calipari suggested that Indiana might try anything and everything to beat Kentucky. His friend Tom Crean, who is 36-66 in four seasons as IU coach, could unveil a triangle-and-two or box-and-one defense. Noting the zone IU tried against visiting UK two years ago, Calipari said, "You've got to be ready for all kinds of things."
Calipari sounded more assured of Indiana's plan offensively. He said the Hoosiers will rely on standout freshman big man Cody Zeller, at least early.
"First of all, they'll go to Cody and run any kind of power game they can and see if we can guard them inside," he said.
If Kentucky must react to contain Zeller, IU can call on its 44 percent three-point shooting.
"So it'll be a tough challenge," Calipari said.
When he met with reporters Thursday, Crean stressed the need to limit turnovers, which feed Kentucky's transition offense. The Hoosiers are averaging 13 turnovers per game this season.
"The bottom line is the fundamentals," Crean said. "You've got to be able to take care of the ball."
The Hoosiers must also combat UK's unusual length and athleticism by making the extra pass to an open teammate, Crean said.
Crean also stressed rebounding. Kentucky crushed Indiana on the boards the last two seasons, enjoying rebound margins of 49-24 and 45-33. That helped UK shoot more than twice as many free throws (65-30) in those games.
Of limiting turnovers and rebounding, Crean said, "Everything else is important, but there are no two things more important than that."
Toward that end, Indiana may try to slow the pace.
"We very well might," Crean said. "This may very well have to turn into a grind-it-out game, there's no question."
That would not surprise Calipari.
"They're a grind-it-out team that will play," the UK coach said. "But they are not going to hurry themselves."
With Indiana looking for a marquee victory, Kentucky must find a way to match the intensity. A No. 1 ranking would seem to prevent the Cats from playing the no-respect card. Not so.
Calipari took note of Kentucky receiving fewer first-place votes in the weekly coaches' poll after beating North Carolina: from 22 to 19.
"It's funny," he said, meaning odd, not humorous. "We won and get less votes. ... I don't know if that's people's hope or their opinion."
Whichever, or neither, Calipari uses this perceived slight to stoke the fire of a team with an average margin of victory of 25.4 points.
"He tells us people are disrespecting us," Teague said. "We're No. 1 and they're looking past us."
When a reporter suggested it might be hard to be disrespected while being No. 1, Teague said, "Not hard. People think Ohio State should be No. 1 or this (Indiana game) will be our first loss.
"We're just ready to play, really."