Togetherness and team defense. Two of the qualities that propelled Kentucky basketball to its national championship banner in 2012 may very well be present in this group.
Of course, Michigan State is lightyears beyond UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky, so the true test of those two characteristics happens tonight in the Windy City.
So far, pretty good.
And players say the best is yet to come.
“We're climbing,” said sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein. “Every game, every practice, we're getting better.”
Are they ready to show the well-rounded Spartans why the Cats are No. 1 and Sparty is No. 2?
“I guess we'll find out,” said the 7-footer.
It took all of a minute for Wildcats coach John Calipari to start assessing his team's shot balance following Sunday's 93-63 blowout of Northern Kentucky.
He pointed out that six players attempted between five and 10 field goals, a good indication of team chemistry.
Aside from the initial moments of the second half, Kentucky's defense pleased its coach, too. Marcus Lee, the final piece to an eight-man rotation, might have been most impressive while utilizing his 6-foot-9, 215-pound frame.
"He can guard all five positions on the floor," Calipari said.
Of course Cal wasn't totally happy. Is he ever?
"Not enough assists," he shook his head. "We're holding the ball a little too long."
Exceptional point guard play, another staple of Calipari's most successful teams, is on the shoulders of Andrew Harrison. Most of Calipari's accusations of holding the ball too long are directed at the freshman.
"When I'm not doing it right, he lets me know," said Harrison, cracking a smile. "You have to be very mentally strong (to play point guard for Calipari). You can't take it too personally."