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National media taking notice of UK

Kentucky is expected to hold on to the top spot it the national rankings later Monday. It will be the fourth straight week and second in a row the Wildcats have claimed the No. 1 ranking.

All along, though, there was a feeling that something was amiss. UK had certainly earned the right to be No. 1 and the pieces are no doubt in place, but it seemed like the Cats weren’t quite playing to their potential. There was a strong feeling of vulnerability.

Oh, how a strong performance can change everything.

Following Kentucky’s 74-50 victory over LSU, arguably the Cats’ most complete victory of the season, the national media is fully onboard with anointing UK the top team in the land. In a few weekend reviews from ESPN, CBS and Sports Illustrated, the national talking heads praised the Cats and write that they’ve separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

Here’s what they had to say:

ESPN’s Andy Katz

The Wildcats are in Beast Mode right now. They’re just crushing teams. LSU entered this game following a tight road loss at Mississippi State. But the Wildcats are just a different animal.Terrence Jones led all scorers with a season-high 27 points and the Wildcats held LSU to a 1-for-9 clip from the 3-point line. Just two Tigers reached double figures.

Although LSU is only 2-5 in the SEC, you have to wonder how dangerous the Wildcats can be in March when a guy like Jones can explode despite some inconsistency this season. He entered the game averaging 11.6 ppg and he only scored five points against Georgia on Tuesday. But this game was further proof that Kentucky is a “pick your poison” kind of opponent. How do you defend a team with that number of studs? The Wildcats have so many weapons.

Syracuse is deep. Ohio State has balance. But no team in America looks as potent as Kentucky right now.

CBS’ Gary Parrish

And it’s starting to look like the Wildcats are the lone trustworthy thing in the sport.

Sure, John Calipari will continue to question his team and build others up because that’s what he does. But there’s no denying that the third-year Kentucky coach doesn’t just have the nation’s most talented roster. He’s also got the country’s top team. And the Wildcats are playing like it. And they’re just a wild 3-pointer away from sitting here in late January with a 22-0 record.

Think about that.

If Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater doesn’t swish, Kentucky is undefeated.

Nobody else is literally one shot away from perfection.

SI’s Rob Dauster

Terrence Jones has been as enigmatic as anyone in the country this season, at times looking dominant and other times completely apathetic. Against the Tigers, he went for 27 points, nine boards, three blocks and two steals while attempting eight free throws and no threes. That’s good, but he has the ability to do that on a nightly basis. And if he does start doing that on a nightly basis, the Wildcats have the potential to be scary good. Think about it like this. UK is just starting to hit its stride, but right now the Cats are the No. 1 team in the country and currently sitting one Christian Watford three-pointer away from being undefeated.