A season ago, Kentucky carried the No. 1 ranking into its Champions Classic game against Michigan State and wound up taking the first of their 11 losses. This year, the top-ranked Wildcats made it clear from the get-go that they were not going to accept a similar fate.
Kentucky had just two players score in double figures, no player score more than 11 points, and the Wildcats still throttled No. 5 Kansas, 72-40, in one of the more one-sided games featuring two top-five teams in recent memory.
UK dominated the game from start to finish, coming at the Jayhawks in waves and controlling the paint. Kansas could manage just 12 second-half points, and finished the game with as many made field goals (11) as Kentucky did blocks. KU shot just 19.6 percent from the field, and the 40 points they put up was their lowest total in 25 years.
Three things we learned
1. Kentucky deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country
Four different teams are receiving No. 1 votes in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and there were some who claimed that Kentucky should have lost more than four of their nods for the top spot after a less-than-stellar performance against Buffalo on Sunday. Some of those same people were the ones before the year reminding the rest of the country that the Wildcats were a No. 8 seed in last season's NCAA Tournament, and that they began that year as the nation's top team but wound up failing to win 30 games.
Tuesday night's performance should silence any and all doubters. At least for the time being.
Duke looked awfully impressive in the first half of the Champions Classic doubleheader, but they weren't nearly as dominant against the No. 19 team in the country as the Wildcats were against the fifth-ranked squad. It's safe to assume that UK isn't going to take three pre-Christmas losses this year.
2. The platoon system isn't going anywhere
When Karl-Anthony Towns got into foul trouble against Buffalo and had to be taken out of the game with a single substitution, there was talk that John Calipari had "already abandoned" his oft-discussed platoon system. While exceptions will obviously have to be made for things like foul trouble or injuries, it doesn't appear as if Calipari is going to stray too far from the five in, five out style of substituting anytime soon.
After seeing what the Wildcats did to Kansas, it's hard to blame him. Sure it seems silly, and sure there will likely come a time in the relatively near future where it's criticized again, but all 10 of these guys have a strong shot at playing in the NBA. As it stands, all 10 are happy and the team is thriving. Until that changes, America is just going to have to get used to the idea of being hit over the head with "platoon" being utilized as both a noun and a verb.
3. Cliff Alexander isn't quite ready for the big time
The Jayhawks' freshman big man was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in 2014, but most scouts agreed that Alexander was still raw and scored too many of his points in high school by bullying much smaller centers. There was no one for him to bully on Tuesday, and the taller and much longer Wildcats frustrated him into a 2-for-7 performance from the field.
For the game, the entire Jayhawk team was an absurd 3-for-23 on layups.