There also have not been the troubling signs of team turmoil that surfaced last season when the Cats lost 13 games.
"I like the way our team is playing. They seem to be enjoying themselves," Smith said.
Junior guard Joe Crawford certainly is having fun. He's hit three or more 3-pointers in eight straight games and is second in the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game in league play. He even laughed when reminded of his statement that he would like to have a "career-high" scoring game against Florida after he had 23 points in UK's earlier 87-49 win at South Carolina.
"I'm not going there. I'm only talking about South Carolina," Crawford said.
Crawford says the players understand why Smith is not more lavish in his praise of their play.
"I think he just wants to make sure we stay focused," Crawford said. "I don't think it is that he doesn't want to be positive, but he doesn't want us to get too high. He knew the rankings were coming out, so he's been tough on us."
Inside the top 20
Kentucky climbed to No. 18 in the coaches' poll this week and broke into the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 20.
"We are not satisfied with our ranking," Crawford said. "We want to move up more. I'm glad we are getting recognized for our play and that people see we are playing better than we were last year. We are a little happy with our ranking, but we want to continue to win and get higher in the polls."
For that to happen, Smith says UK must rebound better as well as improve its defense, especially after Arkansas shot 58 percent from the field against the Cats on Saturday.
"We had a setback Saturday," Smith said. "Other than making shots and getting some breakaway shots, we did not play that well. We still have a long way to go.
"February will be a real test. In the second half of the season, everybody has had a chance to make adjustments to their system and to adjust to what you do."
Smith was concerned with the dribble penetration Arkansas had against his team and says the Cats have to make a "conscious" effort to guard perimeter players better. He didn't like the way his team let players split the defense to get inside and put his interior players in positions where they had to gamble to block shots or commit fouls.
"We have to go out and take things away. We gave the offense too many choices. We've got to make the offense go the direction we want it to go," Smith said. Smith also worries about his team being able to sustain its focus. With two games against defending national champion Florida in the next four weeks, a home game with 2006 Final Four participant LSU and road games at Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Alabama, Smith hopes his team will improve its daily concentration.
"Hopefully that will benefit us and they will be mature enough to handle it," Smith said. "Everything you do from day one is geared to these games. Now is the time for all those experiences to bear fruit.
"We have to make a lot of major strides. I think this team is very capable. We have veteran players, but not a veteran team. We are always learning and improving."
Confidence has risen
However, the Cats won't dispute that their confidence has risen during SEC play.
"Confidence rises with wins," senior Sheray Thomas said. "If you keep winning, your confidence continues to rise. Each time we win, we see what we can do and want to do better."
That's the point Smith continues to hammer home to his players daily.
"I think everyone tends to lose focus when they have some success. Coach Smith won't let us get satisfied," Crawford said. "You think he is being hard on you, but then you go back and understand what he is trying to do. He just wants us to be the best team we can be, and that's what we should want, too."