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Why this Kentucky team can win it all

Yes, it's early, but Kentucky fans are already thinking March.

If you listen to John Calipari speak on this year's Kentucky team, you wouldn't feel too confident about their chances of cutting down the nets this coming March.

There's a difference between listening to Cal, and really hearing him, however. Right now, the Hall-of-Fame coach says he likes his team, but he has been slinging out countless variations of: "we stink right now," and "we're going to take some losses and need some help."

It's classic Cal being Cal. He's downplaying expectations for a young group of newcomers, who by the way, are already ranked number one in preseason polls.

The truth is-- and Cal knows it right now-- this team is capable of triumph in Houston. No question, this year's edition is different. The freshman class is not the prototypical band of Monstars you'd find reserved for the deep annals of a Stephen King novel that spur 40-0 conversation. The returning players aren't lottery picks.

However, the mix of talent, coupled with the correct pieces in the right positions, should have Kentucky fans salivating for number nine.

What wins in March? Backcourt play. Guards who have the ability to control the tempo, distribute, score and take care of the ball will move your team to the Final Four, and then some. There's no question about the direct correlation between solid guard play and winning basketball. And Kentucky has three of the best guards in the nation in Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe.

If Kentucky is going to claim their ninth title, they will be carried there on the backs of these three guards and they're more than capable of delivering.

Another reason for Kentucky fans to feel confident about winning it all, Skal Labissiere. Rewind to 2012 when another slender big man was running up and down the court for Kentucky, swatting shots and slamming lobs-- the kinds of things that would leave your jaw open, then you'd turn to your boy and ask the question, "is this dude human?"

Of course I'm talking about Anthony Davis. No, Labissiere is not Davis, not at all. But he's close. Davis could influence the game without scoring a point due to his shot-blocking ability. Offensively, Davis was raw when he arrived at Kentucky, limited mostly to lob dunks. Labissiere is more skilled than Davis offensively at this stage of his game, entering college. The kid will be a lottery pick and is a future franchise player in the NBA. When Calipari throws out comparisons of Labissiere to Davis and Marcus Camby, your ears raise and you pay attention.

Dick Vitale said it best in a tweet when the NCAA cleared Labissiere to play for Big Blue, "Kentucky won a lot more games tonight with this huge news."

A final reason it's time for nine, the improvement and experience of returning players like Alex PoythressMarcus LeeDerek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. These four guys have been through it all, and they've seen it all. They've banged with the pros that have come through the doors of the Joe Craft Center and have felt the pressures of championship basketball. They will be able to lead, and provide the solid contribution necessary for a national title run.

We've gotten a small taste of all of this in each of UK's first two exhibition games. While the Cats will certainly face far greater challengers along the way, we saw the guards dominating and controlling the game at a level resembling a veteran-heavy team, not one with three starting freshmen. We also saw Skal dominant in the post when the ball went to him while scoring in a variety of ways.

There's a long season ahead, and with it will come setbacks, adversity and growth, but this Kentucky team has what it takes to be cutting the nets down when the final game ends.