All things considered, this has been another good season for Kentucky basketball to date. Sure, Enes Kanter was twice declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA, and plenty of Kentucky fans were upset about that. Sure, Kentucky would be a much better team with their talented Turkish big man dominating the paint. Sure, the Cats have dropped a couple of tough road games in the SEC already. Sure, this isn't the John Wall-led team of 2009-10.
Guess what, though: Kentucky is still very good. Coach John Calipari still has one of the best all-around players in the nation -- freshman forward Terrence Jones -- and a roster full of athletic, versatile young talent. The Wildcats have already played up to that talent for much of the season. And with such a young roster, this team is likely to keep getting better all the way through February and March.
That's what Calipari would like to see, anyway. In his mind, if Kentucky was an NBA prospect, it would be the upside pick of the draft. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
"This team's upside is enormous because individual players are playing 50-60 percent of what they're capable of doing," the UK coach said. "... I don't think any team in America has got more upside."
If he's right -- and he may be -- then that's a thoroughly scary proposition, not only for the SEC but for the college hoops landscape at large.
As I mentioned above, Kentucky has already been very good this season. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 6 in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy. In typical Calipari style (and this is undoubtedly his most underrated coaching quality), this team defends as well as any in the nation, using its rare combination of speed, length, and athleticism on the ball to wreak havoc on opposing offenses' efficiency from the field. Nor do the Wildcats seem to suffer the perils of youth on the offensive end; Kentucky turns the ball over on just 16.2 percent of its possessions, the fifth-lowest mark in the country to date.
In other words, I'm not sure Calipari's right. He might be, he might not. If he's right -- if this team is only giving him 50 to 60 percent of its ability -- then I'd love to see how 100 percent looks. The rest of the SEC is probably less eager.