The Kentucky Wildcats (17-0) have had their best start in 40 seasons and have a much more favorable schedule over the Texas Longhorns to end January.
After winning on the road in a hectic Gator environment, Kentucky will go on the road to play Auburn (9-8, 0-2), who has yet to win a conference game, followed by a week of rest.
The week of rest couldn’t come at a better time for the 'Cats, playing three games in eight days to finish the first month of the year.
They open up the three-game set at home against a struggling Arkansas (7-9, 0-1) team who is currently on a four-game skid. The Wildcats will need to carry momentum from this game into Colonial Center against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks are impressive at home, winning nine of their 10 games and allowing an SEC best 65 points in their homely confines.
The upside for the Wildcats is that the Gamecocks will be playing their fourth game in 11 days, which ends in tired legs resulting in shots coming up short and a slower transition game.
South Carolina will need to dig deep if they plan on beating Kentucky.
If you want to beat the Wildcats, you must be able to control the tempo of the game and you can bank on a healthy 'Cat team winning the game by beating the Gamecocks up and down the court.
The Gamecocks will be tough to play against if they can win their next three conference games.
In this case, they would have momentum playing at home for first place in the SEC East Division. It won’t be easy though, playing at home against Vanderbilt (13-3, 2-0) and then going on the road to play Mississippi (13-3, 1-1) and Florida (11-5, 0-2).
Kentucky finishes their three-game set at home against currently the second hottest team in the SEC. With both teams playing their third game in eight days, each team’s stamina will be tested.
Any stretch of conference games is difficult in this part of the season, and the next four Big 12 games for the Texas Longhorns are against quality Big 12 opponents.
After escaping with a win on the road against Iowa State (11-5, 0-1), the Longhorns' next five opponents bring an overall record of 62-17.
Four out of the five games are against conference opponents, and their non-conference game is not an easy one, going on the road against Connecticut (11-5).
Arguably playing in the best overall conference from top to bottom, the Big 12 is one of two conferences where every team in the conference has 10 or more wins and the only conference where the two bottom teams have 12 wins.
That being said, the Longhorns are No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history and have a tough road ahead.
How will the Longhorns handle being No. 1?
The Longhorns' next game comes against an Aggie team who look to bounce back from their road loss by No. 13 Kansas State 88-65. Texas A&M will fold on the road against Texas if Texas can jump out to a quick lead.
The Longhorns' real fight will occur in the following two games which come on the road against Kansas State (14-2, 2-0) and UCONN (11-5).
We saw how the Longhorns struggled on the road against a weaker Iowa State team, so expect Texas to tangle themselves in a battle on the road against the third best Big 12 team and an always tough Husky team.
The best thing Kentucky has going for them is that they play in a weaker division than Texas.
If Texas can remain No. 1 after completing a five-game set of quality teams, then they are the real deal.
They are a good team, especially when both their guards come to play, but I just can’t see them finishing January undefeated.
The next four conference games will be the toughest stretch of conference games for the Longhorns.
Add UCONN in the mix and expect the Kentucky Wildcats to be No. 1 before January ends.