We all know who the best team in the country is this season.
It’s not a secret. It hasn’t been for months. We didn’t need to see Kentucky break the will of Iowa State with an 87-71 win in the round of 32 to know it.
When Kentucky is motivated, when they are playing as hard as they did on Saturday and when they are shooting the ball like they did on Saturday, there is no one in the country that is going to be able to beat this team. No one.
The only question is whether or not this team is able to keep it together for four more games, and based on what happened Saturday night, there is no reason to believe the Wildcats won’t complete the mission. Three things in particular stood out on Saturday:
– No one epitomizes Kentucky’s tendency not to show up more than Terrence Jones. The enigmatic sophomore forward as all the talent and ability in the world, but he has a habit of pouting and getting moody when things aren’t going his way. So consider this: Jones was Kentucky’s fifth-leading scorer on Saturday. He went 3-9 from the floor and was more-or-less a non-factor offensively. And he still finished with 11 rebounds (four offensive), two blocks and a steal, playing the role of the most talented glue guy in the country. (To be fair, the technical he picked up late in the second half was less than ideal.)
– Marquis Teague is a different player than he was early in the season. No longer does he look like an overwhelmed freshman. He’s running this team, thriving in both the half court and the open floor, the latter an area he struggled earlier in the year. Against Iowa State, he had his best game as a collegian, finishing with 24 points, seven assists and just two turnovers.
– Kentucky beatdown a very good Iowa State team, and they did it without their most physical player — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — doing much of anything. The freshman finished with just two points, a bucket that came late in the game when the outcome was already decided.
Kentucky isn’t always going to shot 10-for-19 from three. But when they are playing this kind of defense with this kind of effort, it doesn’t matter.