ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes likens Kentucky freshman Marquis Teague to such college basketball standouts as Jared Sullinger and Kendall Marshall.
"There are four or five guys that are irreplaceable to their teams," Dykes said. "Teague is one of them."
That sounded like a bold statement given Teague's typically freshman-esque uneven play this early season and Kentucky's No. 3 ranking. But, Dykes, who worked UK's game against Lamar on Wednesday, refused to backtrack. Teague is a key player, even more so on Saturday against archrival Louisville, he said.
"Louisville will extend pressure and try to wear down Marquis Teague," Dykes said. "They'll try to get into Teague."
But hasn't Doron Lamb been a capable backup at point guard? Lamb had no turnovers in 32 minutes against Lamar, and had no more than one in all but one game this season (the exception being four against North Carolina).
When asked if Lamb could not be a capable point guard against Louisville and other future opponents, Dykes said, "He could. But that's not best for Kentucky."
Lamb at point guard takes away from Lamb as shooting guard (his 27 three-point baskets leads UK by a double-digit margin).
Teague, whose six turnovers against Lamar equaled a career high (or low, if you prefer), voiced a way to handle Louisville's pressure.
"Just play at my pace, and getting the ball out of my hands quickly when guys are open," he said. "Just getting my teammates involved, and really pace the game.
"I'm not really worried."
When at Kentucky, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino noted how he'd want opposing point guards to try to dribble through a full-court press. That was true of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson all the way down to a more commonly blessed floor leader, he said. Teague seemed aware.
"The easiest thing with the press is if you pass through it, you don't have to waste energy," he said. "It's when you try to dribble through it that you get tired."
UK Coach John Calipari's aggravation (his word) with the victory over Lamar extended to Teague. The freshman's six turnovers meant he had had four or more in each of the last three games. In that span, he had more turnovers (14) than assists (12). That followed a six-game stretch in which Teague had 35 assists and only nine turnovers.
Teague began the season with 11 assists and 18 turnovers in the first four games.
"He didn't do a good job of running the team," Calipari said of Teague's play against Lamar. "He was trying to score when the guys were wide open, and I told him that."
Teague needed to keep his head up and eyes scanning for scoring opportunities for teammates, the UK coach said.
Calipari's exacting critique of point guard play contributed mightily to Teague's decision to attend UK. In an attention-grabbing subplot to this season's UK-U of L game, his father, Shawn, played for Pitino at Boston University in the 1970s.
Teague wanted to commit to Louisville, but his family persuaded him to delay the decision. Ultimately, he chose to follow the growing list of standout point guards to play for Calipari.
"It's tough," Shawn Teague told The Indianapolis Star of the decision last spring. "He built relationships with all of those coaches and it's going to be tough to tell them that you're going one direction versus another. We've had great relationships throughout the process with all of those coaches."
Teague ranked as the No. 2 player nationally in the 2011 class by Rivals.com.
A prime recruiting target of Louisville's for about two years, Teague twice pushed back his announcement.
The elder Teague said of his son's college choice at the time: "It's been kind of an unusual situation where the recruiting piece has been so strong for so long that Marquis has indicated that he's kind of tired of it and wants to get focused on where he's going."
"He's coached guards real well," Teague said of Calipari when he announced for Kentucky. "I want to be a great guard. ... I feel he's the best coach for me."
UK and U of L will again participate in the Gift of Life Challenge, a contest sponsored by the Donate Life Kentucky Coalition to promote organ and tissue donation. Currently, 780 Kentuckians await a life-saving organ transplant.
The Gift of Life Challenge trophy will be awarded to the winning school prior to tip-off. Fans can register at www.donatelifeky.org.
For those who want a larger-than-life experience, the Kentucky Theatre will show the UK-U of L game on its movie screen. Admission is free.
Player of game award
The Bluegrass Sports Commission will again present an award to the Most Valuable Player of the UK-U of L game. UK's Josh Harrellson won the initial award last season.