By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Kentucky started it with a touchdown and extra point in the opening 90 seconds. The lead grew to 24-0 before UCLA could finally muster up a basket. Eventually, in the second half, the Wildcats led 46-10, bringing back memories of the ’85 Bears and Super Bowl XX.
Coach John Calipari didn’t know what the score was. He couldn’t locate the scoreboard inside United Center, but he wanted to remain oblivious.
“I knew it was pretty good,” Calipari joked.
That’s an understatement. When it was all said and done, Kentucky had an 83-42 blowout of the UCLA Bruins. It gave an unfathomable thrashing to the program which held sports’ most dominant dynasty.
“In my 24 years of coaching, that’s the best team I’ve coached against,” said UCLA coach Steve Alford.
This was an incredible showing from the nation’s top-ranked team. The rankings should be adjusted to make more room between Nos. 1 and 2, because nobody is near Kentucky’s level.
The Wildcats’ Champions Classic win over Kansas left Bill Self begging for a glass of vodka in the postgame press conference. Alford may need an entire vodka company after this game.
At halftime, Kentucky held an astounding 41-7 lead. UCLA had shot just 8.1 percent from the field, failing to do anything against the Wildcats’ tenacious defense. What does Alford say to his team in the locker room? Better yet, what did Calipari say?
The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers were the last team to run the table for a perfect season. Kentucky appears poised to do the same. Who’s going to be these Wildcats? They’ve been tested by talented teams and haven’t come close to losing. Heck, all of their wins are by double digits, an average of 29.3 points.
Kentucky plays in-state rival Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center (whose idea was the exclamation mark?) next Saturday, their best chance to lose, err, get challenged. A soft SEC slate should provide smooth sailing for the Wildcats. A perfect season is a very real possibility.
“I’m a firm believer they can run this thing out,” Alford said. “They’re that good, that talented.”
There will be many headlines about this Kentucky team. It’s something college basketball has never seen. The Wildcats have three projected first-round draft picks, many more with pro potential and a lineup loaded with five-stars. Even Calipari’s garbage-time lineup had five-stars.
In terms of pure talent, Kentucky is unrivaled — an all-time great team. Could it be the best ever?
“Please don’t compare us to teams in college that had three Hall of Famers on their teams,” Calipari said.
Too bad, Cal, because it’s already beginning. A 41-point annihilation of UCLA doesn’t happen by accident. Play this game nine more times and the Wildcats still win by a sizable margin. Bruins star forward Kevon Looney wants a rematch.
What about Alford?
“Not right now,” he said with a chuckle.
Credit Alford, because it takes a strong will to smile after a beatdown like that. But it’s easier to accept when believing that’s the best college team he’s ever seen.
Kentucky may just be the best team college basketball has ever seen.