By DOUG EADS
A 118-84 loss to hated Duke in early-November with a very young team.
Season’s over, right?
I mean, after all this was a Kentucky Wildcat team that showed so much promise in those four games in the Bahamas back last August, and was a UK team that was supposed to be a serious national title contender. Right?
So, what the heck happened in the season opener against the Blue Devils?
I mean, was Kentucky severely over rated? Was the promise shown in the Bahamas a mirage of sorts? Were are incoming freshmen not as good as advertised?
Those were all questions being asked after that beat-down the Cats suffered against Duke.
Now, I’ve got a question for all of those who jumped off the bandwagon after only one game.
The question? Who wants to play this team in March? Who wants a piece of the Cats right now?
This is a team that is getting downright scary before our very eyes, and is a team that has grown up since late-December.
PJ Washington is playing like a man possessed over the past three weeks, and is playing the way head coach John Calipari envisioned he would perform when he was recruiting the UK sophomore back in his high school days.
Tyler Herro is simply a baller. I love this kid’s game. Shooting, passing, finishing at the rim — Herro is a kid that can do it all. And, he’s got that swagger. Simply, this is a kid that is a winner.
Then there’s Keldon Johnson. Johnson is another talented freshman and to me at least, he’s just a ‘dog’. And, I mean that as a big-time compliment.
Johnson just does all the little things to get the job done. And, if there’s a big shot, or a big moment of a game where a play needs to be made, this is a kid that doesn’t shy away from the limelight one bit.
Again, this is another talented UK freshman that is purely a winner.
Take yesterday’s win at Florida for example.
It was Johnson that made two huge three-point baskets, the last giving UK the lead for good in that contest at 50-48. Simply, Johnson is another ‘baller’ that just goes out and makes plays — plays that gets Kentucky ‘W’s’.
Reid Travis — while he doesn’t always blow you away with his point totals — is a man among boys down in the paint.
He rebounds, he defends, and he gives the Cats a tough — and I do mean tough — presence inside that any team needs to make a deep run in March.
Ashton Hagans meanwhile has made arguably the biggest difference in the trek of the season for this UK team.
I mean, Hagans was almost an after thought in that Duke loss back on November 6th.
He only scored two points in 19 minutes in that game, and he had three turnovers.
Now, look at him today. He’s firmly entrenched as Kentucky’s point guard, and he’s a lock-down defender, and one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation.
So, at 18-3 overall on the season, 7-1 in the SEC, and the owners of an eight-game winning streak, who really wants to see this Kentucky team in March?
The reason I am so high on this team, is because I agree whole-heartedly with something coach John Calipari said about a week ago.
There’s a ton of improvement left for this team to make over the next five weeks of the regular season, and that’s not good news for any team in America, and yes, that includes Rick Barnes and number one-ranked Tennessee.
And, if the Cats can indeed make that improvement, then Kentucky’s got as good of a chance to win a national title as any team in America —- ANY TEAM.
And, how many people out there would have thought we would have been saying that after that Duke loss?
Not many in my opinion.
This is a team that has grown up in front of our very eyes, and is improving almost on a daily basis.
Yes, March is going to be fun I do believe, because this is a team that is going to be downright scary by tourney time.
And for all of us that are members of Big Blue Nation, that is a great thing indeed.
Go Big Blue!!!