2011 NCAA Tournament: Kentucky Wildcats Ready for Big Dance

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2011 NCAA Tournament: Kentucky Wildcats Ready for Big Dance
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament on a 6-game winning streak.

Tournament time can't come soon enough for the Kentucky Wildcats after dismantling the Florida Gators today in the SEC title game, 70-54. "The way my team is playing right now, let's have it! Come on! Bring it!" coach John Calipari said of the NCAA tournament. Winners of eight of their last nine games, there may not be a team in the country that's as hot as Coach Calipari's crew. Suddenly his young 'Cats are all grown up.

After struggling with consistency and toughness all year, Kentucky appears to have found all the right answers.

Throughout the regular season, the Wildcats routinely found ways to lose close games in hostile environments, winning just once on the road in SEC play, before closing out conference play with a hard-fought 64-58 victory at Tennessee. That win seems to have awaken the boys in blue as they cruised through the SEC Tournament with three consecutive victories over Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Now it's on to the NCAA Tournament, where a once fragile looking Kentucky basketball team is showing it may have the moxie to make a deep run. Brandon Knight has supplanted himself as one of the top players in the country, and SEC Freshman of the Year, Terrence Jones gives teams match up problems with his size and athleticism. But the key to this team's continued success will be the production from Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, as well as lone senior, Josh Harrellson, who has been spectacular roaming the paint during Kentucky's late-season winning streak.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Josh Harrellson's improved play inside has sparked the Wildcats late season run.

Over the past six games, Harrellson has improved his averages to 7.5 ppg and 8.5 rebounds, while keeping opposing teams' posts from dominating the paint. In fact, Kentucky may have found a new secret play. Putting shots up on the rim and letting Harrellson clean the boards, getting easy buckets in the process.

Now, as the college basketball world holds its collective breath, anticipating the announcement of the field of 68 this evening, Kentucky can rest easy, assured of their participation and invigorated with a new sense of confidence, knowing what the rest of the field is soon to find out. Kentucky is a team no one wants to face.

Just ask Florida. You'll get no argument from them.

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