Maybe he's not John Wall or Brandon Knight, Calipari's two previous point guards at UK. Maybe he's not Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans, Calipari's last two point guards at Memphis. But the current Calipari point guard, Marquis Teague, is still plenty good enough to have his name being mentioned not only as a possible NBA first-round draft pick in June, but also good enough to position the Cats to win a national title.
Against Florida Tuesday, he had 12 points on only six shots to go with a career-high 10 assists. Granted, he had five turnovers, but several came when he tried to make the right plays because he's become a pass-first, shoot-second point guard that this Kentucky team needs. He doesn't have to be Knight or Wall for this talented team. He just has to be a floor general who distributes the ball, plays physical defense and scores when the defense dares him.
"I am just leading my team and trying to get everybody involved," said Teague after Tuesday's game. "I?have a lot of great players and scorers on my team, so I am just trying to get them the ball where they can score. If I have a shot, then I get my shot.?If not, I just pass."
Key words there from Teague were "my team." He now not only believes he's the team leader on the floor, but he's playing that way and that's a huge reason Kentucky has won its last four games by 20 or more points.
"Yeah, I feel like I am the leader of the team and the point guard. I?have the ball 85 percent of the time. I have to make the right decisions, talk to everybody and make sure everybody is in the right spot. Hopefully we keep it going like this," Teague said. "We enjoy winning, so if I've got to take less shots for us to win, that's what I'm going to do."
Calipari was beaming Tuesday night when he evaluated Teague's play.
"What about Marquis Teague? Twelve points, 10 assists. He is playing, getting everybody shots. He ended the half Doron (Lamb) 3, Doron 3. He got him those shots. That gave us some breathing room, up 12. He played well," the Kentucky coach said.
He also played shutdown defense on Florida point guard Erving Walker and helped hold him without a field goal in the 78-58 win.
"He had one play where he broke down, kind of stopped on a play, they had a 3 in the corner right in front of our bench. Short of that, he's terrific. You can't dribble around him," Calipari said. "I'll tell you where he's great: in pick-and-roll defense. It's hard to screen him because he is a pit bull."
That "pit bull" determination came in handy against Walker.
"I just wanted to contain him. I?know he is a quick guard and shoots the outside shot very well. I just wanted to pressure up on him, contain him and keep him in front of me and keep him out of the lane and making plays for others because they have a lot of shooters," Teague said. "It is really hard to guard a smaller guy, especially him because he is very quick and crafty with the ball. It's a tough challenge. Have to move your feet and play hard."
Florida was supposed to be a big test for Kentucky, and Teague. The Gators had lost just one Southeastern Conference game and are ranked No. 8. This was going to be the game where UK?had to prove it was for real and that the big wins over LSU, Tennessee and South Carolina were more than just lopsided scores against inferior teams.
"I think we made a big statement. We just wanted to come in and show that we feel like we can beat anybody that we play and that we can beat them be a good amount, so we just came out and played hard," Teague said. "We heard some stuff like we played weaker teams at the beginning of our conference and stuff like that, but we were just waiting for better competition, and when we did we still win."
Can anybody beat the Cats if they shoot that well (52 percent overall, 60 percent from 3-point range)?
"I don't want to say nobody can beat us, but it will be tough, real tough," Teague said.
Same for games Teague gets a double-double.
"It felt good to do that. I just played my tempo and tried to control the game and make the right decisions," Teague said.
Those decisions include not being afraid to credit teammates for what they do. He cited how Anthony Davis' inside presence makes it easy for him to score sometimes.
"He opens the floor for us a lot because they (defenders) know if they commit (to helping on another player), we are going to throw the lob for him to dunk," Teague laughed and said. "Sometimes they have to pick and choose what they want to do, but either way we are going to get the bucket."
Won't it get more difficult at Vanderbilt Saturday? The Commodores will be hosting ESPN GameDay and since they have already lost three SEC games, they must beat Kentucky to have any chance to challenge for the conference title some college basketball analysts thought they could win this season.
Plus, won't critics tend to downplay the Florida win if Kentucky stumbles at Vanderbilt?
"Yeah, we have to follow it up. We know it is real tough to play there and they are a real good team. We have to go there and give 100 percent effort and try to get another win. We know there are doubters, but we don't doubt ourselves," Teague said.
The Teague doubters won't go away, though. Even during Tuesday's big win, CBS Sports analyst Seth Davis posted this on Twitter: "In the end Marquis Teague, as good as he is, will be UK's undoing. Might not be til last two minutes of championship game but..."
Perhaps Davis could be right, but I?don't think so. Neither does Davis.
"Marquis is our leader and is doing a great job running our team. He's playing great and that's when we play great," Davis said. "We all trust him and believe in him."