CRAWFORD | Unofficially, Kentucky's really good; devours Arizon - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Unofficially, Kentucky's really good; devours Arizona State 115-69 in Bahamas

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Freshman De'Aaron Fox turned in the second triple-double in Kentucky history Monday night. (UK Athletics | Chet White) Freshman De'Aaron Fox turned in the second triple-double in Kentucky history Monday night. (UK Athletics | Chet White)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I've been in this business long enough to know that you don't make sweeping pronouncements about any college basketball team in November. It's kind of like wearing white after Labor Day -- you can do it if you want to, but you're opening yourself up to be laughed at.

But come on. You saw what Kentucky did to Arizona State Monday night in the Bahamas, right? I told my Twitter friends that I would tweet something about Kentucky's 115-69 victory when I could think of the right word.

And I haven't Tweeted since.

I say this in the most respectful, admiring way I can say it -- there was something animalistic in the way Kentucky tore into Arizona State. The Wildcats fell in on that team like a tiger devours a wild boar.

It was savage, but beautiful. These guys swallow the court. Four, five strides and you feel like they're at the rim.

Especially with that performance Monday night, the comparisons have already started with John Calipari's 2014-15 Kentucky team that went 38-1, its only loss coming to Wisconsin in the national semifinal.

This team may not win every game. This team has to play North Carolina in Las Vegas, and has some other tough tests.

"Got a lot of wins to go to be that team. That team was special," Calipari told reporters after the game, before changing the subject.

Good idea, changing the subject. I'm not falling for it.

This team may not run the table. But Lord, can it run. If it were to continue developing the all-out abandon, the frenzied ferocity, if it can keep fanning the flashes of flair it showed Monday night, this group could be more special. I don't know if this team has a player who will be as good a pro as Karl-Anthony Towns. That team was a Cadillac. It was an Escalade.

But this one is a Ferrari. There are two things this one has that the 2014-15 group didn't. One is team speed. These guys run the court like Beyonce is waiting to greet them at the other end. Calipari says he has had fast teams. He has had quick teams. But he says this team is "fast and quick." 

Both teams boast wild athleticism. But the other difference between this one and the 2015 team is old-fashioned basketball skill.

The strength of that team, what it was built around, was its interior, with Towns and Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress. It had great guards -- especially coming off the bench in Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. But the focal point of this team is its guards. De'Aaron Fox, so far, is Rajon Rondo with a little better scoring and a lot better attitude. Isaiah Briscoe is an enforcer, "a beast," Calipari called him. Malik Monk comes from Bentonville, Ark., home of Walmart. I know I'm mixing discount chains here, but he's blue-light special. He's athletic, is developing his shooting touch, and plays with a smile that is contagious. Not long after catching a pass from Briscoe on the break and making a reverse layup out of it -- a play you figured might be his most athletic of the game -- he takes a long outlet from Briscoe, while airborne, falling out of bounds, and whips it with one hand on a line to Wynyen Gabriel, who slams home a reverse jam.

And as usual, Bam Adebayo's name hasn't been mentioned yet. He's been compared to Dwight Howard. But he may be more offensively skilled than Howard. His surface hasn't yet been scratched.

So they're good. Their chemistry appears to be good. Monday night, they had some stylistic moments that I'm not sure any Kentucky team since, maybe, John Wall's group, has shown on the court.

Yes, it has dominated some lesser competition. Yes, it has been impressive before. But on Monday, there were some next-level moments. 

Sun Devils coach Bob Hurley said his team was "shell-shocked" and called Kentucky "spectacular."

Calipari wondered how to bottle what he'd just seen.

"That was good," he said. "The question becomes now: How good can we be? It may not be every night. One of the things I told them before the game was, ‘Look, we need to have a close game. We need to have an overtime game. We need to have a team make their first 10 shots and see how we respond. We need to shoot 32 percent and still win a game. We need to be in tough, physical battles and know who can respond.' And that’s what our season is about. We just want to learn. Tonight we learned that if we really guard – we gave up some threes – but if we really guard and fly, we’re really unselfish -- now you become hard to beat. Just that. Really guard, really rebound and fly and be unselfish. And then we’ll work on the other things where we’re playing a team that’s maybe bigger or more physical or faster than us and gets back. Now how do we play?"

Fox had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists -- only the second triple-double in Kentucky's storied basketball history. And it's down here in the 20th paragraph. How about this? I'll do him more justice after the next one.

The Wildcats set a record for points in a game under Calipari for a second straight game, and topped the 100-point mark for a third straight game, the first time a UK team has done that since December of 1977. Folks will remember that '77-78 team wasn't too shabby.

And Calipari knows this one isn't either. Arizona State couldn't compete, couldn't run with Kentucky, couldn't rebound with them (Kentucky's edge on the boards was 60-31). But it also couldn't match Kentucky's effort. The Wildcats were diving to the court all night. They were at maximum effort. They weren't just better in tangible ways, but intangible. That's the encouraging thing.

When Calipari said before the season that this could be his best team, he got a little push-back from players on some of his former teams.

"Well, it’s funny, when I said that, I got all kinds of texts from my former players who were hitting me like, ‘Oh, really? This is your best group, huh?’ Like I got a bunch of guys on the ’15 team that won all those games and I just laughed," Calipari said. "But this team has a chance. It’s my job now to keep defining reality, where they are. It’s my job to figure out ways that they can improve. It’s my job to — what I told them prior to the game: I’m happy because every individual player has gotten better. They’ve all gotten better."

It's still early. Officially, I'm not going to say they're better than 2014-15. Officially, I'm saying, let's wait on a larger sample size. Officially, maybe we wait to see the Wildcats tangle with North Carolina in Las Vegas in a few weeks.

Unofficially? You might not want to wait till that Vegas trip to lock in odds on this group doing something special.

Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Kentucky quotes via transcript provided by CoachCal.com.

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