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NCAA Final Four: Ranking the Kentucky Wildcats' Best Performers Thus Far

Matt OveringContributor IIIMarch 26, 2012

NCAA Final Four: Ranking the Kentucky Wildcats' Best Performers Thus Far

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    The Kentucky Wildcats are in the Final Four for the second straight year. John Calipari's squad has caught fire in the NCAA tournament, winning with significant contributions from key players down the stretch.

    Their run, however, is not over. It will take more great performances on both sides of the ball to win in New Orleans. 

    Through four games, the Kentucky Wildcats have averaged 88.0 points per game and have outscored their opponents by an average of 13.8 points per game. No other Final Four team can boast double-digit wins against their last four opponents.

    Each player that has played for Kentucky has represented the Wildcats well. From Anthony Davis to Brian Long, each player that has logged minutes for Coach Calipari has contributed to this historic run in their own way.

    Here's the top performers for the Wildcats' run through the NCAA tournament thus far.

5. John Calipari

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    The Kentucky Wildcats are the youngest team in the Final Four. 

    That inexperience may hinder some teams, but not this one. John Calipari has this young squad—some still teenagers—playing team basketball. He manages egos as well as anyone in the college game, and he's a great coach to boot.

    Calipari is in his second straight Final Four with another not-so-deep rotation, and the difference is remarkable. Last year's Wildcats squeezed out wins in the NCAA tournament, never surpassing the 80-point threshold that this Kentucky team has broken four straight times.

    The 2010-11 Wildcats focused on half-court sets, concentrating on controlling the pace and getting quality shots. This year, Kentucky is comfortable with any pace. Calipari has made adjustments on both sides of the ball, further improving the versatility of this Kentucky team.

    Kentucky would not be in the Final Four without the marvelous coaching of Calipari.

4. Marquis Teague

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    Marquis Teague received criticism in the SEC tournament for his regression to his play earlier in the year.

    And while he certainly could have played better, one could not make the same argument for his performance in the NCAA tournament, specifically against Iowa State in the Round of 32.

    Teague was brilliant, posting a career-high 24 points on a ridiculous 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Throw seven assists, four rebounds and a steal, and you have Teague's best performance of the year.

    He hasn't been to shabby in the other three games, either. Teague has 21 assists and is great from the foul line (18-of-23).

    Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are also deserving of making this list. Lamb's persistent offense and Miller's composed demeanor on the court have also helped Kentucky make the Final Four.

3. Terrence Jones

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    He's a leader. He's mature.

    Those two words are the exact opposite of what any Kentucky fans would call the enigma that Terrence Jones was just three months ago.

    Call me crazy, but Jones sets the pace for this Kentucky team. He scored the first five points for the Wildcats against Indiana in the Sweet 16. When Iowa State tied the game at 42, it was a dunk by Jones that broke the tie.

    He's turning down open shots early in the shot clock. He led the team in assists against Baylor. Jones is a leader, plain and simple. 

2. Anthony Davis

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    Kentucky set the record for most blocked shots in a single season against Indiana in the Sweet 16, going from 312 to 316. The 2003-04 Connecticut Huskies held the record at 315.

    As the Wildcats continue to stuff shots (325 on the year), Anthony Davis' legacy grows. Davis has 175 of those 325 and continues to captivate audiences with his mastery of the "blocked shot."

    He's continued to play a large role in the Kentucky offense, scoring 14.5 points per game. More importantly, he forces teams into a crucial dilemma: Help off on the dribble-drive, resulting in an alley-oop for Davis, or give Kentucky an open look in the paint?

    Opposing coaches will continue to try and solve this perplexing puzzle. Davis has shown that this effort is futile. He hasn't been stopped.

1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was quiet in Kentucky's first two games in the NCAA tournament. He stepped up.

    Against Indiana in the Sweet 16, MKG was the best player on the court. He tied his career high with 24 points and added 10 rebounds, demonstrating his all-around game and incredible effort on both sides of the ball.

    He followed it up with a 19-point performance against Baylor on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. In those two games, he didn't miss from the free-throw line (14-of-14).

    A total of 43 points through two games is nice for anyone. But add defense, relentlessness on the glass and tenacity, and you get one of the best 18-year-old basketball players in the nation.

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