COLLEGE BASKETBALL DAILY REPORT : Of Course, UMass Respects 11-18 Foe

Times News Services

The Massachusetts players and coach are saying all the right things about Central Florida. On Thursday, UMass is certain to do all the right things on the court against the Golden Knights.

UMass, with a tournament-best 31-1 record, is trying hard to focus on Central Florida, whose 11-18 mark is the worst in the tournament.

"We know they can shoot [three-point shots] and we think they'll play some zone [defense] and double down against us," UMass coach John Calipari said. "They're in the tournament for a reason. I told our team, 'When you don't respect the opponent, you'll do poorly.' "

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Kentucky Coach Rick Pitino hopes the loss to Mississippi State will make his No. 2 Wildcats quit believing everything they hear about themselves.

Kentucky (28-2) had a 27-game winning streak end when it fell, 84-73, to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament championship game Sunday.

"When you hear people say it's the best team in 31 years, you suddenly believe the nonsense," Pitino said. "Mississippi State puts a hammering on you and now you say, 'Wait a second. Boy, was that not true?'

"Right now, we have a humble group of young men."

Kentucky opens play in the NCAA Midwest Regional against San Jose State (13-16) on Thursday at Dallas.

Pitino denied a rumor that forward Antoine Walker had been suspended.

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Tony Rutland, Wake Forest starting guard, is questionable for Friday's Midwest Regional game against Northeast Louisiana because of a knee injury.

"In my own mind a decision has been made that he won't play," Wake Forest Coach Dave Odom said. "Now if we get to Friday and the doctors say he can play and he feels great, then he will play."

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