Men's Basketball

Mark Story: 'Bad boys' could threaten Cal's Cats

North Carolina's P.J. Hairston, left, Louisville's Chane Behanan, center, and Mississippi's Marshall Henderson
North Carolina's P.J. Hairston, left, Louisville's Chane Behanan, center, and Mississippi's Marshall Henderson

If you are seeking an appropriate theme song for some of the best players from the opponents most capable of threatening John Calipari's 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats, download Bob Marley's Bad Boys.

At least three of the foes — North Carolina, Louisville and defending SEC Tournament champion Mississippi — who have some chance to spoil UK's (unrealistic) goal of a perfect season have a star player who is "suspended indefinitely."

How dramatically will Kentucky be impacted when the indefinite suspensions of P.J. Hairston, Chane Behanan and Marshall Henderson are lifted? Let's take a look.

P.J. Hairston

Team: North Carolina

Why he matters: UNC's leading returning scorer (14.6 ppg) and the Tar Heels' primary three-point threat (39.6 percent last season).

How he got into hot water: The 6-foot-6 junior from Greensboro, N.C., must be the worst driver in the Research Triangle. Hairston was suspended by Roy Williams on July 28 after being cited for speeding and reckless driving, his third traffic-related legal issue of the off-season. In the first two traffic stops, Hairston was in rental vehicles linked to Hadyn "Fats" Thomas, a convicted felon who has four aliases and is a Durham, N.C., "party promoter."

Slot on UK schedule: Dec. 14th, the 11th regular-season game for Kentucky and the ninth contest for North Carolina.

My odds on Hairston playing against the Cats: 99.9 percent. Better question might be will Hairston play in UNC's fifth game of the season, which could be against Louisville in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament?

Chane Behanan

Team: Louisville

Why he matters: The 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior was named to the All-Final Four team last season after posting a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) in U of L's victory over Michigan in the NCAA title game. Behanan (9.8 points, 6.5 rebounds last season) decimated Kentucky with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in U of L's 80-77 victory over the Cats last year.

How he got into hot water: On Oct. 17, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino announced that Behanan had been indefinitely suspended from the U of L team and ordered to vacate his dormitory after an unspecified violation of university policy.

Slot on UK schedule: Dec. 28th, the 13th regular-season game for both Kentucky and Louisville.

My odds on Behanan playing against the Cats: 100 percent. After Behanan's suspension was announced, I started out skeptical he would play against UK. Pitino's initial public comments about the suspension suggested there was no hope Behanan would return soon.

For all the sound and fury that will surround the first-ever meeting between UK and U of L as the two most recent NCAA champions, there's nothing but bragging rights at stake in Rupp Arena in December. Should Kentucky and Louisville face each other in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, however, everything would be on the line. From a team psychological standpoint, I thought, it could make sense for Pitino to hold Behanan for a possible March Madness showdown with UK.

However, that was before Pitino told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer on Thursday that Behanan should be back with the Cardinals "in a short period of time. ... Just do the right things and he'll be back on the team in a short period of time."

Marshall Henderson

Team: Mississippi

Why he matters: The polarizing Ole Miss gunner led the SEC in scoring last season (20.1 ppg) and helped the Rebels claim the SEC Tournament championship and their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002.

How he got into hot water: Suspended indefinitely by Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy on July 10 shortly before it was reported that Henderson had been part of three separate interactions with Oxford, Miss., police this off-season. In one of them, the Ole Miss star allegedly had small amounts of cocaine and marijuana in a vehicle he was driving.

Slot on UK schedule: Two, actually. Mississippi is one of three SEC teams (Florida and LSU) that Kentucky will face twice this season. The Rebels will visit Rupp Arena on Feb. 4. That will be UK's 22nd game and the 23rd for Ole Miss. Four contests later, the Wildcats will travel to Oxford.

My odds Henderson plays against the Cats: 95 percent. It's 100 percent he will have been fully reinstated by Kennedy for league play if there are no other off-the-court issues. With Henderson, there's always a chance something new comes out.

Bad boys, bad boys.

Whatcha gonna do?

Whatcha gonna do when the Kentucky blue come for you?

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