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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Kentucky #1 Edition

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UK rises to #1 in the AP poll after thrashing Michigan State, and Duke's last-second loss to Kansas. How good are the 'Cats?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

The big news of the last 24 hours is Kentucky’s elevation to #1 after Duke’s last-second loss to Kansas. But that hasn’t gotten anyone off the Duke train, trust me. Most sportswriters still see them as the team to beat pending the return of some of their talented freshmen currently sitting out with injury.

Partisan though I am, I think I’ve seen enough of Duke to know that Kentucky is not only currently the better team, but is going to have a big head start on Duke no matter when their injured players get back to full speed.

As of this writing, there are no reports of an imminent return for any of the three injured frosh: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden. Unfortunately for Duke, the later their return, the less time they will have to integrate these guys back into the rotation, and the more competition they will have missed. This is going to matter. Exactly how much is unknown.

The good news is, the Blue Devils have a couple of home games against markedly inferior teams before they have to take on Michigan State in Cameron. Hopefully, they will have some of those guys available by then, and we’ll be able to get a better read on how good the Blue Devils really are. Their schedule is pretty favorable going forward with only Michigan St. and Florida remaining as highly-ranked foes on their non-conference slate.

The team that most UK fans aren’t talking about right now is Villanova, who garnered all but two of the non-UK first-place votes, and exactly half of UK’s total of 42. The northern Wildcats have been much more thoroughly tested than Kentucky, having beaten a very good Purdue team (narrowly) on the road, a decent Wake Forest team by eleven on a neutral floor, and a not-horrible UCF team by ten on neutral. The good news for ‘Nova is that their offense is great. The bad news is that their defense against better teams has been loathsome.

That’s really why I like the Kentucky version of the Wildcats — defense. Kentucky’s worst defensive performance is equal to or better than Villanova’s best except for their first game against #294 Lafayette. When Kentucky finds its offensive groove (and it will), I think they are going to be very, very hard to beat.

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And this is news because… Oh, that’s right — it’s the same story every year!

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