Kentucky improved to 15-2 after a 92-72 home win over Auburn on Saturday afternoon and is now five games through its way-too-easy SEC schedule. The Wildcats are a flawless 5-0 in conference games and have won those games by an average of 23.4 points.
It's getting to be entertainingly boring. But hey, at least Kentucky's showing signs of greatness. That's good for college basketball, and this team is shaping up to be better than last year's squad. If you like rooting against Kentucky, good luck. You'll see this team truly challenged maybe -- maybe -- three or four times before the SEC Tournament final.
We knew Kentucky was going to win the SEC this season -- that was an automatic back in October. What we didn't know was how much better UK would be from the rest of the league. The conference not only hasn't kept up with Kentucky, but in fact it's lost ground. Yes, Florida is also 5-0 atop the SEC, but we'll wait until UK-UF on Feb. 4 before remotely entertaining the idea that the Gators belong to sit at the same table as the Wildcats.
Right now, UK is in the discussion for best team in the country while the rest of the league is looking outclassed. It's sort of feeling like those years when Gonzaga is at arm's length from the rest of the WCC.
So now that we know Kentucky is going to waltz to yet another league title, it's become a game of how UK's going to win. Few teams are as fun to dissect, to watch evolve, like Calipari's clubs.
The big news from Saturday's game, from a performance standpoint, was Kentucky's 57.1-percent shooting. That's the best UK's been from the field this season. UK is yet to dip below 50 percent in SEC play. That hasn't happened through five games at UK since the 1980s.
Because of this shooting spree, UK had five players hit double figures, and for the eighth game in a row at least one player starred by way of going for 20 or more points. On Saturday it was, of course, Malik Monk. The freshman sensation had a game-high 24. Even better, he had six assists, the most in a game in his fertile UK career. Here's his highlight again.
The fun wrinkles with Kentucky's evolution include something we saw on Saturday: the lanky Wenyen Gabriel, who got the start and made the most of his chances against the Tigers, had a career-high 16 rebounds, plus two 3-pointers. In the preseason I wrote that the overlooked Gabriel would be good for three 15-plus rebound games. We're now 1/3 of the way there.
Kentucky's 3-point shooting is an irregular pattern to watch. The Wildcats are blipping the 36-percent line on the season, and they've been all over the place in SEC play. UK was 11-of-19 on 3-pointers against Auburn. This after making just one triple in the Vanderbilt win Tuesday night. The Cats were just 5-of-19 against Arkansas, but went crazy vs. Texas A&M, hitting 13 triples on 25 attempts.
They can afford to go cold from deep. No one in the conference can afford to watch them shoot better than 40 percent from downtown. If Kentucky is able to shoot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in conference play, then look the hell out. Kentucky's put up half a hundred in the first half in eight of its 17 games, and it's gone to the century mark five times this season. I'm setting the over/under on Kentucky getting to 100 3.5 more times this season, and gladly taking the over.
The defense was expected to be great -- and has fallen short of Calipari's calculations -- but the offense has been beyond anticipation.
It wasn't totally smooth on Saturday, by the way, and that's a good thing. De'Aaron Fox fouled out with more than seven minutes to go, but I liked a lot of what I saw from UK down the stretch. Auburn had pushes where it got close, but Isaiah Briscoe, or Monk, or Bam Adebayo, stepped in right on cue. The game was uneven in tempo because of frequent whistles, many of them earned but a few of them cheap. Kentucky was bad from the foul line hitting on 17 of 32 attempts. Yet it wins by 20.
Kentucky's next game comes Tuesday night at Mississippi State. So how many points will it be? The average is 23.4. Does UK go for a 20-plus differential on the road? It's hard for me not to think so.