"We are enjoying playing together this year. We have some great personalities and different people taking different leadership roles. It has been a lot more enjoyable just to go out and play."
So Thomas is not ready to admit UK is not a national title contender?
"We could still win. Definitely," Thomas said. "That is our goal. We all believe that. We talk about winning championships all the time. We didn't win the SEC (Southeastern Conference). So now it is all about winning a national championship."
Thomas says playing in the NCAA tourney is a unique experience for any player. He hopes UK will have an edge against Villanova - or even Kansas - because it has three seniors and three juniors who are experienced in NCAA play.
"It definitely can be a help, and should be," Thomas said.
Tonight's game will be a new experience for freshmen Derrick Jasper, Jodie Meeks, Perry Stevenson and Michael Porter. Thomas, and UK's other veteran players, have tried to explain what NCAA play is like.
"I started talking more to them when we got close to tournament time," Thomas said. "They have to be mentally focused and prepared for the tournament. That is the most important thing. They cannot let all the distractions bother them.
"When you hear about NCAA play, it helps you a little bit. But nothing helps you more than experience and playing in the tournament. It's a whole different kind of pressure, and they have to learn that by playing in the tournament."
Of course, Thomas readily admits the older Wildcats could learn a few lessons, too. Remember, it was he who had the free throw lane violation that likely cost UK a win over Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
"I regret what happened, but it is over. We have to move on," Thomas said.
However, that's not the only mistake UK has made this season. There have been numerous other blunders - and inconsistencies - that have led to 11 losses.
"It is hard to beat us if we play a full 40 minutes. When we are on our game, I don't think there is anybody that can beat us. But we have to bring it, and we have not always done that," Thomas said.
Why the inconsistency?
Handled similar situation last year
"I can't really pinpoint why. Every game, it has been something different," Thomas said. "One game it is a defensive collapse. Another game we did not get a rebound. Another game, shots would not fall. Different things have happened. Now our margin for error is gone. Another bad game and we're done."
That's the fate of a No. 8 seed in the tourney. Kentucky might have survived a game or two in NCAA play a few years ago when it went into postseason with a high seed and momentum. But those days are history and that's why Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is being criticized so much.
If there is good news, it is that Kentucky handled a similar situation last year well. Kentucky beat UAB and then had Connecticut on the ropes in the second round before falling.
Thomas thinks that should help the Cats this weekend.
"I think that will be a factor. The big thing is we are more confident than we were last year when there were so many doubts. Some people didn't think we would even get in the tournament then," Thomas said.
"People forget we have won 21 games. That's not bad, except by Kentucky's standards. But if we have a good showing these next three weeks, it will change the perception a lot of people have about us and the program."
Sounds good, as he's obviously no doubting Thomas. However, the reality is UK needs to play well tonight just to get a chance to play Kansas - and that's not a change in tradition that Kentucky fans are ever going to like, understand or accept.