When the polls came out Kentucky once again sat at the top of college basketball.
This is a bit of a homecoming game for the Wildcats, as they come off two games on the road last week in SEC play.
Kentucky's play was not only good enough to win on the road, which in the SEC is not always an easy task, but the Cats won with relative ease. The Cats had an average margin of victory of 18.5 points in the road games with Georgia and LSU.
The win over LSU, a game that many thought would be much closer, may have been the best game in league play for John Calipari's young team. This may have been in large part thanks to the play of sophomore forward Terrence Jones.
Jones is no longer hampered by injury to his finger, nor is he even thinking about the injury. He has put it behind him. Jones played with a renewed energy against Georgia, but had a sub par game offensively. In Baton Rouge Jones was able to maintain the intensity he played with while in Athens, and get his offensive game flowing to the tune of 27 points. Jones finished one board short of a double-double.
LSU's Trent Johnson said that if Terrence Jones is going to play like he did Saturday then UK is going to be tough to keep away from the NCAA tourney title. On Monday Calipari was asked about the comments of Johnson.
Calipari said, "I don't know if it's that much but let me just say this. We were all happy in that locker room. The team was ecstatic. It wasn't scoring. He was tough. He came up with balls. He posted physically strong even though the guy battled him. He battled back. The four jumps for a ball, we haven't seen that all year. Well that's now what we're all looking for. Everybody will be saying that if he's capable of doing that then let's do it every game. Now, it's hard because they're not machines. They're not computers. But, it's what you strive for. It's what you prepare for."
Since SEC play began earlier this month teams have had a common item on their beat Kentucky "to do" lists. Play physically, make the game a bump and grind affair, and your team's chances of winning dramatically increase.
When you look at Kentucky's lineup that would indeed appear to be the case, and it may have been accurate four weeks ago. That may no longer be true.
LSU did not frustrate Kentucky as much as they were frustrated by Kentucky on Saturday. Kentucky has adjusted to the physical play and is performing. LSU became so frustrated trying to play physically that they became overaggressive and got into early foul trouble. In trying to be physical with Anthony Davis the Bayou Bengals got overly aggressive and knocked Davis to the floor multiple times, and in the process Malcolm White was ejected for a flagrant foul against Davis when Davis went to the hoop on a breakaway. White reached out and grabbed Davis by both shoulders and slammed him to the floor.
Since teams began to play more physically the presence of Darius Miller has become a bigger factor in games. Miller seems to be able to get to the lane and get shots from either inside or out against the opposition.
Is this Kentucky team playing its best basketball of the season, as we prepare to enter February?
When asked about the team playing its best basketball of the season Calipari said, "We are just trying to get better day-to-day. We missed all of those free throws. We missed about six layups in that game. But, we played good. We played as well as we have all year. But, now let's see how we do in practice, let's see how we do tomorrow. Let's see how we build on that tomorrow."
When the Vols meet Kentucky at Rupp I suspect that the team they play will be much more prepared to play physically than the team they played four weeks ago. I also think that this time around we are less likely to see the Cats take a step backward, and more likely to take the ball at the defense aggressively.