Mark Story

Mark Story: Texas, U of L and a team that will surprise you are 3 biggest threats to the dream of an undefeated UK season

Texas freshman Myles Turner (52) and teammates Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley form a sizable frontcourt that can match up with Kentucky eye to eye.
Texas freshman Myles Turner (52) and teammates Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley form a sizable frontcourt that can match up with Kentucky eye to eye. AP

If the whole 40-0 T-shirt thing had not blown up so spectacularly on Kentucky fans last season, John Calipari's impressive 2014-15 edition of Wildcats would have the undefeated season talk at a fevered pitch right now.

Beginning with Friday night's visit from Texas, the No. 1 Wildcats are about to embark on a six-game stretch in which they will face the nation's No. 5, No. 6 and No. 12 teams — plus UCLA.

If UK emerges from its trip to archrival Louisville on Dec. 27 unbeaten, then talk about the Wildcats running the table will rise again.

Here are the six games that pose the biggest threat to the Wildcats in 2014-15. Other than the road game at Louisville, the team that looks most dangerous to UK, at least to me, might surprise you.

6. At LSU (Feb. 10)

Reason for Big Blue worry: In 6-foot-10 sophomore Jarell Martin (15.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and his 6-8 classmate Jordan Mickey (17.5 ppg, 10 rpg), LSU has the best non-UK frontcourt in the SEC. The Tigers beat the Cats last year in Baton Rouge.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: All five LSU starters (including guard Keith Hornsby, son of the singer Bruce Hornsby) are averaging in double figures — but no one else is even close. A team with no depth is unlikely to fell UK.

Threat level: Low.

5. No. 12 North Carolina (Dec. 13)

Reason for Big Blue worry: Any time a program with the pedigree of UNC gets a chance to play the disrespected underdog — the role which the baby Blue will fill this year vs. UK — it is dangerous. Marcus Paige (14.9 ppg) and the slimmed-down Kennedy Meeks (14 ppg, 10 rpg) should be a lethal outside-inside combo.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: The conventional wisdom is you must shoot well from the perimeter to beat Kentucky this season. UNC shot 38.6 when it lost to Butler, and hit 28 percent of its field goals in a home-court loss to Iowa. Paige is hitting 35.3 percent of his shots through seven games.

Threat level: Low.

4. At Florida (Feb. 7)

Reason for Big Blue worry: Off to an injury-plagued 3-3 start, Florida has much room to grow. After beating Kentucky three times last season, Billy Donovan (career 17-26 vs. UK) needs one more win to tie ex-LSU head man Dale Brown (18-33) for most wins all-time by a coach against Kentucky.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: More shot-making problems: Florida missed its first 10 shots and shot 32.8 percent in a loss to North Carolina. It hit 35.9 percent in an overtime defeat to Georgetown, 34 percent vs. UAB and 32.7 percent against Louisiana-Monroe.

Threat level: Moderate.

3. No. 6 Texas (Friday night)

Reason for Big Blue worry: In 6-11 Myles Turner (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), 6-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley (8.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and 6-8, 240-pound Jonathan Holmes (12.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg), Texas has a frontline that can look Kentucky's in the eye. With victories already over Iowa, California and at defending national champion Connecticut, the Longhorns come to Rupp Arena with some notches in their belt.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor (15 ppg, 3 apg) is sidelined by a broken wrist. If Taylor were playing, this would be real interesting.

Threat level: Moderate.

2. No. 18 Arkansas (Feb. 28)

Reason for Big Blue worry: That whole thing about making perimeter shots to beat Kentucky? In its 6-0 start, Arkansas is shooting a ridiculous 46.1 percent on three-point tries. The Hogs are 4-2 against Calipari-coached UK teams and beat the Cats twice last season.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: Those two losses to Arkansas from a year ago will be motivating for UK. The Cats are not going to lose in Rupp in 2014-15.

Threat level: Elevated.

1. At No. 5 Louisville (Dec. 27 )

Reason for Big Blue worry: Terry Rozier (13.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg) and Chris Jones (11.8 ppg) are the kind of smallish, quick guards that troubled UK last season. Montrezl Harrell (16.7 ppg, 9 rpg) is a beast. Kentucky has ended Louisville's season in two of the past three NCAA Tournaments — so the Cats will face no more juiced crowd than The Ville's.

Reason for Big Blue not to worry: Even while starting 6-0, Louisville is hitting 26.3 percent of its three-point tries. Under Calipari, the Cats have won six of their last seven against Rick Pitino's Cardinals.

Threat level: Elevated.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader