Kentucky is good, but let's not get ahead of ourselves

INDIANAPOLIS -- They had one of those dress-up contests during the first media timeout of the second half here. You know, where the little kids run down the court and put on shorts 10 times too big and sneakers meant for grown men?

The young Kansas fan was late to the shooting part, struggling to get his shoes on. But in a spurt, he launched an off-kilter jumper from just inside the free-throw line.

It didn't go in but it goes down as the best look a guy in a Jayhawks' uniform got all night.

Here's essentially how this version of the State Farm Champions Classic, a 72-40 Kentucky romp, went: Early in the second half, Frank Mason III got out on a fast break, soaking up the space around him for an easy bucket … until Alex Poythress blocked his shot, meeting the ball at the backboard. But wait! There came Kelly Oubre with the follow-up for surely the easy lay-in. Except no, Trey Lyles got him, too.

It was borderline cruel, really, with the Kentucky faithful on their feet cheering for Kansas blood like thirsty Romans at the Coliseum.

And then, just when the Jayhawks thought they might get a breather, there came the next platoon. As Kansas players tugged on their shorts, you could almost envision the thought bubble above their heads, ‘What the … there's more of them?'

"I thought this was vodka," Kansas coach Bill Self joked, swigging from his water bottle on the postgame dais.

Understandably. The Wildcats are everything we thought they were -- ridiculously long, incredibly talented and unfairly deep.

But that's about all the proclamations anyone should and can make on Nov. 18.

So let's stop the hyperbole in its tracks right now.

Will Kentucky go undefeated? Who knows, but it's doubtful. Why? Because it's hard. Because the Cats play a pretty loaded schedule, and mostly because they're kids and they will invariably have a bad night (witness the first half all of two days ago against Buffalo) where their shots don't fall or the effort isn't realized.

Could they beat an NBA team? Do the Sixers qualify? They're about the same age, after all. If they do, well then, maybe.

"No, we're not that good," Kentucky coach John Calipari said as he took his seat at the postgame news conference. "Next question."

Usually sandbagging coaches are about as believable as politicians three weeks before an election.

But Calipari isn't sandbagging. His was a hard sell after his team all but annihilated Kansas, blocking 11 shots, forcing 11 turnovers and limiting the Jayhawks to just 19.6 percent shooting for the game. The effort, coming after a less than inspiring first half against Buffalo, was so ferocious that freshman Karl-Anthony Towns had to catch himself when describing it in the postgame.

"It was a chance to go …," he said before restarting. "It was a chance to go hard to the wall."

So yes, the Wildcats are good, rhymes-with-halls-to-the-wall good, but we can't possibly know how good, not yet.

At the risk of sucking the joy of what makes sports so joyful in the first place -- the chance to pontificate, proclaim and prognosticate with abandon -- it would be wise right now to take a deep inhale.

Because let's face it, the Wildcats themselves have been down this road before. Frankly, they've been down it annually since Calipari took over. This team can definitely go undefeated, people say, until it can't. This team is the greatest. No this one … until Joe Mazzulla happens or Christian Watford or Shabazz Napier.

As Calipari accurately pointed out, some team sometime somewhere will play a zone against them. How will Kentucky, which shot just 6-of-18 from the arc, respond then? What if there's a team that has more size on the interior? What if Kentucky gets on the road and finds itself down 10, what then?

What if, for heaven's sake, the Champions Classic this season pitted the Wildcats against Duke?

"We've got a long way to go," Calipari said.

That thought might send shivers down the spines of everyone from Boston University, the Cats' next opponent, to Florida, their last, but it's true not just of Kentucky but, more importantly, of the season. The end of the Tipoff Marathon is merely the start of the basketball marathon and a lot can and will happen in between.

Maybe a better way to drive that point home is to consider Self. It's easy to be philosophical about your team after it just finished playing like some collegiate dream team. It's tougher when it looked like a CYO jayvee squad.

Self's team got drilled, the fourth-worst loss in the storied history of Kansas basketball. The third platoon even scored against the Jayhawks.

He wasn't happy, certainly, but he wasn't turning in his whiteboard. Instead he was cracking jokes, marveling that the same team that shot an abysmal 24 percent in the first half managed to out-awful itself in the second, by connecting on only 13 percent.

"It's too early in the season to be discouraged," he said. "We're embarrassed but it's way too early."

Way too early to throw in the towel, and way too early to make any bold proclamations.