The last moment when No. 1-ranked Kentucky looked like anything remotely resembling a normal team was around 3:50 local time on the afternoon of Jan. 28. The Wildcats were on the road that day to play LSU, and with 3:19 remaining in the first half, UK led the Tigers by just one point. LSU's Anthony Hickey had just stolen the ball from Kyle Wiltjer, leading to a Storm Warren dunk on the other end. The Tiger crowd was going crazy, but though no one knew it, that was as close as Trent Johnson's team -- or anyone else since -- would come to catching UK.
"We came together and stayed composed," John Calipari said afterward. UK's composure allowed them to finish strong that day and go on to record a 74-50 win.
Since that moment in Baton Rouge, Kentucky has gone on a 204-122 run over 152 possessions spread across a little more than 2½
SEC games, outscoring their conference opponents during that stretch by (take a deep breath) 0.54 points per possession. No, those opponents have not been especially daunting (the Tigers, Tennessee and South Carolina). Still, two of those three games took place on the road, and when you're talking about a scoring margin that exceeds half a point per trip, you're looking at dominance that can get the job done against tougher opponents as well.
At least that's the theory. We're about to find out if theory translates into practice. To date, UK's played the second-easiest conference schedule of any SEC team, but things will now become far more interesting. The 23-1 Wildcats host Florida on Tuesday night and then travel to Vanderbilt on Saturday, playing their two primary conference rivals back-to-back. On the eve of what promises to be a crucial five-day stretch for the Cats, let's take a close look at what has all the markings of a team ticketed for the Final Four.