Is it too soon to say Kentucky is back?

It felt weird to claim that Kentucky was back after the Kansas game. For one thing, the Wildcats lost. For another, a couple of big-time recruits, DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards, played as if they were introduced to their teammates and to college basketball a few minutes before tipoff.

Despite feats like scoring 118 points against Marshall, it has felt premature to say that Kentucky was back based on any of their other games. But Tuesday? Tuesday might have changed the narrative and expectations for this group.

Kentucky — which scored 95 points, blasted No. 8 Miami by 22 points and looked as talented as any team in the country — might well be back.

And the scary thing is that the ride upward could still be in its early stages.

Wagner? The 5-star guard was limited to just 10 minutes by a minor leg injury. Fellow 5-star center Aaron Bradshaw? Working out with renewed intensity, but not quite ready for his first action of the season. Fellow centers Ugonna Onyenso and Zvonimir Ivisic  haven’t been able to play yet either. But is Kentucky even missing them?

Tuesday, against Miami, it looked like Kentucky wasn’t missing anyone or anything. UK outscored the Canes — a Final Four team last year with plenty of returning star power — 53-36 in the 2nd half. The Wildcats shot 67% after the break, too, including 64% from 3-point range. Kentucky began the half by connecting on 15 of its first 17 shots. If the Wildcats weren’t back, they did an excellent imitation of being back against the Hurricanes.

Start with Reed Sheppard. The 6-3 home state product was about as close to an under-the-radar recruit as John Calipari signs. He finished his high school career ranked as the No. 13 combo guard in the nation. Watching Sheppard score 21 points, including going 5-for-9 from 3-point range (which actually dropped his sky-high 3-point percentage) while managing 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, a blocked shot, and probably a partridge in a pear tree, it was fair to wonder how things are going for some of the “better” combo guards in the class like UCLA’s Jan Vide (4.3 points per game), Georgia’s Silas Demary Jr. (6.8 points per game), or Texas’ Chris Johnson (1.8 points per game).

Maybe everybody underrated Sheppard. Considering his on-court +35 total in the nightly plus/minus stat, that seems likely. And some underrated his backcourt mate Rob Dillingham, who had 12 points and 9 assists Tuesday, drawing Calipari’s postgame praise as the player of the game. Veteran Antonio Reeves added a quiet 18 points, looking infinitely more comfortable on a team full of perimeter threats than he was a year ago as UK’s sole perimeter threat in the team’s NCAA Tournament flop. West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell added 14 points and 7 assists.

It’s fair to say that as a teamwide pattern, on Tuesday night, Kentucky had scoring, swagger and smoothness (26 assists to 8 turnovers). For Calipari, it has to be refreshing to see many of the program’s national critics (ahem, Jeff Goodman) circling back around to suddenly lavish praise on the Wildcat boss.

Calipari has a little of his old cat-that-is-eating-the-canary mojo back, as well. “They’re sharing the ball,” he said of his squad after Tuesday’s win. Give another half-season of experience to the freshmen guards, add in those big men, and it’s not hard to see the Wildcats building on this start and boat-racing plenty of teams this season.

But it’s still November, and everybody is still learning, including the UK student section that Calipari shushed as they emerged into the eternally random “Overrated” chant at the Hurricanes. Maybe Tuesday’s win over Miami wasn’t an indication that the Wildcats are fully “back” — back to John Wall swag levels, to Anthony Davis dominance, to Karl-Anthony Towns determination.

But Tuesday felt like another step on the path to being back. And after a rough couple seasons in Lexington, it’s a path that Big Blue Nation is happy to revisit.