Entering this week, no one expected the UConn Huskies to compete for a title at the 2010 EA Sports Maui Invitational. In fact, head coach Jim Calhoun claimed he was still just learning his players' names. But Calhoun has something none of the other phenomenal coaches gathered at this tournament did: junior point guard Kemba Walker.
Walker has taken the Maui Invitational by storm, scoring 61 points in his first two games and putting himself within striking distance of the tournament scoring record. The current mark of 93 was set in 1991 by Chaminade's George Gilmore, and is certainly within reach of Walker.
UConn also has a solid group surrounding their scoring leader, as forward Alex Oriakhi has shown well so far this season, averaging 12.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Oriakhi had 15 points and 17 rebounds in the Huskies' big 70-67 win over No. 2 Michigan State Tuesday night.
Standing in UConn's way will be the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats who aren't short of talent themselves. Freshman forward Terrence Jones has had the gym buzzing this week with incredible performances in Kentucky's wins over Oklahoma and Washington. Against the Sooners Jones scored 29 while adding 13 rebounds and Tuesday night against the Huskies he score 16 points and grabbed 17 boards.
Kentucky is also led by freshman point guard Brandon Knight, who is trying to be mentioned in the same breath as Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall as freshman point guards who dominated for John Calipari-coached teams. After a tough opener against Oklahoma, Knight opened up his offensive bag of tricks Tuesday night and displayed his full arsenal. He finished the night with 24 points and 4 rebounds, hitting shots from all over the court.
It should be a great battle tonight between two of basketball's best programs. UConn won the 2005 Maui Invitational, while Kentucky last won the tournament in 1993.