The Kentucky Wildcats have started the season with 12 straight double-digit wins, earned 1-1 odds to win the national championship in Vegas, and humiliated UCLA to the point of players were heard crying in the locker room. While going undefeated remains against the odds, Big Blue has done enough to warrant a reasonable conversation. They have risen to their highest level of play in their biggest games by beating UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas by an average of over 24 points per game.
5…Karl Towns, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, and Marcus Lee have lived up to their preseason hype. All 5 bigs for Kentucky look like future pros. While Towns has lived up to ping-pong draft status, Cauley-Stein has emerged as a legitimate Wooden Award Candidate. Willie has always been able to defend, but he has improved his passing and free-throw shooting. Kentucky will not lose if the Wildcats keep pounding it inside without turning the ball over. There are stretches of games where teams cannot get a shot off.
FORE!…Alex Poythress tearing his ACL has been the only real dark spot on the season. While the injury does not devastate a team with Kentucky's depth, the absence of Poythress will be noticeable when and if the Wildcats lose. For all the strength that remains, the Wildcats do not have a defender to match players like Duke's Justise Winslow or Arizona's Stanley Johnson. As a junior, Poythress brought necessary experience in addition to his explosive athleticism. On a positive, at least Kentucky will have another senior to celebrate on Senior Day in 2016 as the injury likely removes him from the draft pool.
3D...Freshman point guard Tyler Ulis and junior center Willie Cauley-Stein have developed some remarkable chemistry that was on display this week versus UNC. This is a superb read by both players that begins at the top of the key:
2…The Harrison twins are the best players no one likes in college basketball. Even among Kentucky faithful, the highly-touted twins are measured more for what they are not than what they have become. I am still not a big fan of Andrew as a point guard and he is not a first-round talent, but he has improved as a sophomore by showing more commitment on the defensive end and having a better offensive plan than barreling into the lane and throwing the ball in the air. Meanwhile, Aaron is an underrated defender and distributor of the basketball who is beginning to look like a rotation-ready NBA prospect in the back of the first round.
And 1…Mark your calendars for Saturday, December 27 at 2:00 PM ET as #1 Kentucky faces soon-to-be #3 Louisville on ESPN2. Louisville is 11-0 and has won every game by more than 9 points. The game should feel like a perfect mix of a football Saturday and March Madness.