John Calipari's best team yet?
Wildcats continue to truck SEC foes, validate national title talk
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.
To see why this could be John Calipari's best team yet and to get access to the analysis of Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Fran Fraschilla, Joe Lunardi and more, sign up for ESPN Insider.
Insider College Basketball
New on Insider
Lunardi: Pac-12 locked into 2 bids?
Player Rankings: Davis over Robinson for POY
Lunardi: Where UW, Northwestern fall
Hume: Bid thieves are few
Bilas: Sizing up the Big East
Gasaway: Pac-12 stronger than it seems
Hume: Best bets among bubble teams
Lunardi: VCU may be first bid thief
Ford: Time running out for 5 NBA prospects
Lunardi: How UConn, Texas, others earn bids
Lunardi: Latest look at the bubble
Fraschilla: Previewing Big 12 tournament
Bilas Index: UNC remains at No. 3
Pomeroy: Trends predict UNC-Duke clash
Lunardi: No No. 1 seed for Big Ten?
Player Rankings: Purdue's pivotal players
Ford: Will MKG, Cody Zeller stay in school?
Gasaway: Rebounding won't crush Orange
Telep: UCLA's top recruits remain committed
Bilas: How Michigan State can still improve
Bilas: Keys to the Hoyas' continued success
Lunardi: Watch out for NCAA bid thieves
Lunardi Rundown: Kentucky is No. 1 overall
Bilas Index: Kansas returns to the top five
Make smart bracket picks by spotting Cinderella early.
And don't forget these Insider mainstays:
Doug Gottlieb, Fran Fraschilla, Joe Lunardi and Jay Williams offer their opinions.
Insights from the mind of the College Gameday analyst.
The national recruiting analyst weighs in on news and rumors surrounding the top high school prospects.
Stay on top of all the latest recruiting buzz.
Every D-1 player's efficiency rating.