By COLIN FLY, Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Florida coach Billy Donovan handicapped what could be the national title game in April.
The most intriguing matchup? Kentucky against Syracuse.
"If you're looking at talent, I think Kentucky has clearly six guys who are going to be first-round picks on their team. I don't know that Syracuse has six first-round draft picks, but they have really, really good talent and they have incredible length," said Donovan, who won national titles in 2006 and '07. "It would be a heck of a game."
After a 78-58 loss to the Wildcats on Tuesday night, the Gators have faced the top three teams in the poll — Kentucky, Syracuse and Ohio State — all on the road. Donovan's take is that Wildcats have the moxie to cut down the nets.
"The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor," he said. "There's a certain disposition you have to have and I'm not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there's like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There's a mentality there."
It's helped the Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) win 16 in a row and keep coach John Calipari a perfect 48-0 at Rupp Arena since taking over in April 2009 with the Wildcats winning their last 49 home games.
"We have this little swagger," said freshman Anthony Davis, who had 16 points. "We just want to go out there and play hard and win. We're very capable of winning a national championship if we keep playing how we're playing."
Kentucky's goal from the start was to win an eighth national championship after losing to eventual champion Connecticut in the Final Four last year and the Wildcats reloaded with Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. Add in sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, senior Darius Miller and a fourth freshman, Kyle Wiltjer, and Kentucky is one of the country's youngest teams and also one of the most talented.
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Calipari said that the 18-year-old is similar to his brightest star at Memphis.
"He reminds me of Derrick Rose," Calipari said. "He's tougher on himself than I am on him. Like he came running over during the game and says to me, 'Coach, I'm sorry.' I said, 'Stop, just have fun and go play.'"
The Wildcats have the nation's top defense by field goal percentage to go along with a high-powered offense. Florida failed to hang around even in a half against this bunch in the Gators' first crack at them.
"It's fun winning by 20," Teague said. "We enjoy this. We want to go out and beat everybody by as much as possible."
One of the last remaining questions for a team that continues to believe it can play for a national championship in just under two months had been the quality of opponents the Wildcats had faced after not meeting a ranked team in over a month.
Kentucky answered it emphatically.
"We play together so well — we enjoy playing together on offense and defense. We communicate. We just have fun out there," said Teague, who had 12 points and a career-best 10 assists. "It makes us play harder when you enjoy who you're playing with."
When Florida scored the first six points of the game, Kentucky answered with nine. When the Gators opened the second half with four straight points to cut the lead to 38-30, the Wildcats used an 11-0 run to all but end it.
"I think we made a big statement," Teague said. "We just wanted to come in and show that we can beat anyone and we can beat a team by a good amount."
The Wildcats still have a tough road remaining with games at Vanderbilt on Saturday, Mississippi State on Feb. 21 and a rematch with the Gators on March 4. Kentucky has beaten 13 of 24 opponents by 20 points or more and its only blemish is a one-point loss at Indiana in December on Christian Watford's 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Donovan said he'd like to see a Kentucky matchup with Syracuse.
"Syracuse to me is an interesting team. They have every bit as much length as Kentucky and they have more depth. They're an interesting team and obviously they play that zone," Donovan said. "I think when you get to the tournament, it's a one-shot deal and anything can happen in one game. But clearly, I think if they went all the way, it wouldn't be surprising."