With the Wildcats the only remaining unbeaten team in the nation, the honor is well-deserved. Some fans and writers have called the strength of the Wildcats schedule into question but with victories over Connecticut, Louisville, North Carolina and Florida the Cats have shown they are the real deal.
But buyer beware.
When those who tally and produce the rankings bestowed the number one honor on this young team, they also placed a huge target on their backs. Don't get me wrong; Kentucky fans are used to having a target on their backs – they have one in the SEC even when they field a mediocre team. Teams work especially hard to beat them in off years just because they were so used to getting thumped by the Cats in the past.
With the number one ranking comes a lot of pressure and Kentucky has not always handled that pressure well. The last time UK reached the #1 spot was March 21, 2003, after they beat Mississippi State in New Orleans for the SEC Tournament championship. Just over a week later, Marquette beat them by 14 in the NCAA Tournament.
The talent-rich 1996 team opened the season ranked number one but lost their second game of the season to then-John Calipari coached UMASS. That 1996 team was known for total dominance of their opponents but most people forget that the 1996 team played most of the season ranked #2. When they finally reclaimed the number one spot on March 8, they dropped the SEC Tournament championship to Mississippi State two days later.
Number one is not always a good thing to be, unless of course it's the day after the NCAA Championship.
The Cats, however, have seemed immune to pressure thus far and have stolen victory from many near-defeats. The number one ranking will add a new level of pressure and only time will tell if they are able to handle it. So far, it would be tough to bet against them.