ST. LOUIS — Kentucky acknowledged the possibility of playing an undefeated opponent without starting point guard Andrew Harrison on Sunday. Harrison injured his right elbow during Friday night's victory over Kansas State.
"It's day to day," Harrison said Saturday. "I should be all right."
Harrison said he expected to play against Wichita State, but the word "if" came up repeatedly.
"I should be all right," said Harrison, who wore a sleeve on his right arm. "It might affect my shooting a little bit. But, who knows?" X-rays were negative, Harrison said. He injured the elbow when he tried to strip the ball from a Kansas State player in the final two minutes of Friday's game.
UK needs Harrison, whose 134 assists nearly match the total of UK's next two assist men, Aaron Harrison and James Young, who've combined for 135.
"We need Andrew every game," forward Julius Randle said. "He's a tremendous leader. He's our point guard. He makes us go. So we definitely need Andrew.
"But if he can't go, I have faith in the guys who would fill the role."
Coach John Calipari was non-committal about how Kentucky might proceed without Andrew Harrison. He spoke of Aaron Harrison as a possible replacement.
"What if he's 70 percent and I see it?" Calipari said. "And I just say we can't win with a guy at 70 percent, we're going to have to play without you."
Not counting Aretha Franklin, players and media types may have set a record for using the word "respect." Wichita State feels under-appreciated.
"They have our respect," point guard Fred VanVleet said of the Cats. "Hopefully, we have their respect. I would hope so. If not, that's fine, too."
UK players spoke respectfully of the Shockers.
"We know they're the real deal," Polson said. "It's definitely going to be a huge challenge for us."
Wichita State guard Ron Baker returned the favor.
"They're very young," he said of the Cats, "but they're so athletic. They just surprise teams with that."
UK paid Wichita State the ultimate compliment by comparing the Shockers to Florida. Calipari made exactly that comparison in prepping the Cats, Julius Randle said.
"He said they're a lot like Florida, especially on the defensive end," Randle said. "Five guys watching the ball.
"The good thing is we played Florida three times. So if they're like them, we should be pretty prepared."
A reporter probably got carried away when the tone of his question suggested that Randle might be overwhelmed going against Wichita State's star, senior forward Cleanthony Early.
"I think Julius will do just fine," Aaron Harrison said with a wry smile. "Cleanthony is a good player. Julius is pretty good, too."
Polson acknowledged the coincidence that Kentucky, the subject of pre-season speculation of a 40-0 record, will play Wichita State, a team five victories away from such an achievement.
"Yeah, it is a little ironic," he said. "I don't think anyone expected how both of our seasons went. But, at the end of the day, it's zero-and-zero now."
Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet sympathized with UK players having to deal with pre-season speculation about a 40-0 record.
"Before the season, before you see anybody suit up, I think that's pretty crazy to put that on anybody," he said. "That just shows you the basketball world we live in. They want to put all these burdens on kids coming out of high school not knowing what to expect."
UK players said they watched little of Wichita State this season. By contrast, the Shockers watched plenty of UK.
"We watched them pretty much all the time," VanVleet said. "They're on every day, it seems like. For good reason. They're good."
Wichita State swingman Nick Wiggins, a top reserve for the undefeated Shockers, is the older brother of heralded Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
Nick, a 6-foot-6 senior averaging 5.1 points, said he and his younger brother did talk about the possibility of the two playing together in college.
"There were conversations about it, but I never put any pressure on him like that. I wanted him to make his own decision and feel like he made the best decision for himself."
Given that Andrew is the leading scorer for Kansas and a prime candidate to be the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, does Nick ever let himself wonder how good Wichita State would be if the two had teamed up?
"Oh, man," Nick Wiggins said with a smile. "He brings a lot to the table, man. I feel like we'd be very good."
■ Willie Cauley-Stein on the emotional, mental and physical toll brought by the NCAA Tournament: "All the media is 10 times worse than normal."
■ The mothers of Cauley-Stein and Baker were teammates at St. Mary's of the Plains. "It's a small world," Cauley-Stein said. "I would expect something like that to come from southwestern Kansas because everybody really knows everybody."