With the win, and Duke's loss in the ACC Tournament, the Cats are again this year the Unanimous top seed of the Number one seeds (having been one in 2003 as well). What this means is that they have the "easiest" road to the Final Four, but as UK found out last year, what is supposed to be does not always come to fruition.
So the Cats must use the same determination, focus, and game plan that led them through the SEC Tournament with ease. Georgia, who had beat Kentucky twice in two tries (Felton 3 wins in 3 tries) gave the Cats the best game, using their physical style of play to frustrate the Cats on offense, and tire them on defense. The seniors were willing to give life and limb for a win, pulling a late 8-0 run that finally distinguished Georgia's hope for a 3-peat against Kentucky, and a tournament bid.
South Carolina downed LSU to meet the Cats in the Semi-finals, only to be 3-peated themselves, never challenging Kentucky throughout the second half. A marvelous performance by Gerald Fitch off the bench (24 points in 19 minutes) left the gamecocks a consistent arm lengths away.
Shortly after the Cats win, Florida mopped the floor with a tired Vanderbilt team. Having given every ounce of effort and ability, Vanderbilt surprised a Mississippi State team to make the match up possible. Florida made the game with a last second overtime win, but the late night effected the Gators very little as they took advantage of wide open 3 point shots throughout the second half to eliminate the Commodores.
From the tip, Tubby Smith had the Kentucky troops playing spectacular ball. The vision and execution put Florida on its heels, even enlarging the lead after the loss of Hawkins and Daniels to fouls. Once the second half began, the return of the starting five proved too much for Florida with UK again running away for its 3 peat of yet another SEC opponent.
Now it's a new game. Kentucky will be playing teams it has not seen all year long, and being able to adapt to these differences will be a key on the defensive end. A little luck will also be necessary, as an injury to one of the seniors similar to what happened to Keith Bogans last year may once again spell doom for Kentucky in the later rounds. Despite the final outcome, it is clear that this year's senior class has done far, FAR more during their tenure than could have ever been imagined.
How long ago was it when most were complaining about the last minute commitments of Gerald Fitch, Cliff Hawkins, and Erik Daniels? Not too far gone, but with March comes eternal optimism in Big Blue Country as the kids not wanted by most Kentucky fans try to bring home what those fans want the most. Number 8.