The Kentucky Wildcats are no strangers to being ranked No. 1 in the nation. Over head coach John Calipari’s three-year run with the team, they have accomplished the dubious feat twice. Never has it ultimately resulted in a national championship.
Monday, on heels of his latest No. 1 in ranking in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Polls, Kentucky’s biggest and brightest star took his team’s early season anointment with a grain of salt.
"This early in the season, it's nice," Calipari said in a statement. "But it's not that significant. It just puts a bigger target on us."
The Wildcats slipped into the No. 1 spot this week following a surprising loss by the North Carolina Tar Heels to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in last Saturday’s final of the Las Vegas Invitational. Of course, seeing as Kentucky and North Carolina are slated to square off this coming Saturday, both teams’ respective promotions and demotions may be short lived.
"Obviously, not everyone thinks that we're the best team," Calipari said. "Starting three freshmen and two sophomores, they may be right. I'll be anxious to see how the team accepts the challenge this week."
Kentucky last sat atop the standings in late January of 2010. In its very next game, Calipari’s Wildcats fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks in a close, 68-62 upset. Kentucky would never reclaim that No. 1 ranking, and eventually went on to lose to West Virginia Mountaineers
in the NCAA East Regional finals.
In order to find a year in which Kentucky both ranked No. 1 in the nation and won the championship, you would have to go back to 1995-96. That year they reigned supreme above the competition for five weeks en route to eventual glory.
Following their 87-63 blowout victory over the Portland Pilots last Saturday, Kentucky was awarded a five day breather. Up next, they will face the always-dangerous -- albeit this season only 4-3 -- St. John’s Red Storm on Thursday, Dec. 1.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time.