|Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis makes an early case to lead the 2012 NBA Draft. (US Presswire)|
NEW YORK -- There was a sense of nervousness, almost uneasiness from the Kentucky contingent that seemingly occupied the majority of Madison Square Garden, at halftime. The nation's most talented team (sorry, North Carolina) looked rather ordinary in the first 20 minutes, the offense stagnant. In fact, ordinary might be generous for the manner in which these young, talented Wildcats played coming out of the gates.
Then the nation saw why those in Chapel Hill -- and not those in Lexington -- should be the ones chomping on their fingernails.
Anthony Davis was using his un-human-like length to alter shots.
Doron Lamb did his best Ray Allen impersonation, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers to blow open the game.
Marquis Teague was running the show with precision.
And Terrence Jones displayed the mental toughness, consistency and leadership that evaded him as a freshman last season.
|More on Kentucky-Kansas|
Kentucky shows its youth, but the potential for greatness is there
Even Michael Kidd-Gilchrist nailed a 3-pointer.
This is Kentucky's best shot at winning a national title since John Calipari's arrival in Lexington.
"It's the most talented team he's had," Kansas coach Bill Self said after Kentucky's 75-65 victory against the Jayhawks.
That's a statement not to be taken lightly.
In case you forgot (and Calipari will remind you), Kentucky had a record-setting five first-rounders a couple years ago -- including three lottery picks: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.
But that team lost to a completely inferior West Virginia team (last I checked, Bob Huggins has Calipari's number).
This team has it all.
Talent, toughness, length, character, shooting, rebounding, guys who defend.
"I'm not sure what they don't have," Self admitted.
The one concern might be depth.
Only six players received double-digit minutes against Kansas. Wiltjer is seventh in the rotation -- and then there's a dramatic dropoff.
It's accurate that Kentucky took down a Kansas team that is mediocre -- at least by Kansas standards. In fact, the Jayhawks -- who play a pair of former walk-ons -- might wind up being a fringe Top 25 team.
But it's not difficult to sense that this Kentucky team has the chance to be special.
It'll be difficult for John Calipari to screw this one up.
However, this team will have its shake-your-head moments -- as was the case in the first 20 minutes on Tuesday night when it appeared as though Calipari has altered the offense from the "Dribble Drive" to the "Stagnant Drive."
Guys were standing around, there was minimal ball movement -- and Kansas was playing even with the 'Cats.
Then Kentucky overwhelmed the Jayhawks.
Kansas star big man Thomas Robinson saw a double-team just about every time he touched the ball in the post. Jones and Davis combined to hold him to 11 points (on only a dozen shot attempts) and 12 rebounds.
"I haven't seen anyone like him," Robinson admitted of the versatile Davis.
"He's going to be the number one overall pick," Self added.
Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor got to the foul line and managed to finish with 20 points, but this wasn't even a game for the final dozen minutes.
"They are really, really, really talented," Taylor said. "The way they run and how long they are. The main thing, though, is how they get out and go."
"This is going to be a special team," Self said.
Calipari wouldn't go as far as to say that this Kentucky team is more talented than the one he had a couple of years ago. Darius Miller, the veteran and senior of the group, said this group is just as talented -- if not more so.
"They're as talented as anyone I've played," a frustrated Robinson said after the game.
Calipari, in an effort to manage expectations and his players' egos, once again spoke about the youth of the team, but it's becoming a broken record these days. Sure, you need chemistry to win a national title -- you cannot do it without talent.
And there's no shortage of that in Lexington right now.
There will be inconsistency from the freshmen -- and maybe even Jones -- throughout the season. There will be more 20-minute stretches like the one witnessed by the nation to start the game on Tuesday night.
But you can't teach what guys like Davis, Jones, Teague, Lamb, Kidd-Gilchrist, Miller and Kyle Wiltjer possess.
"We've got a long ways to go," Calipari said.
He's right. By my count, it's about 750 miles from Lexington to New Orleans -- the site of this year's Final Four.