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Calipari, Liggins Lead UK Back To The Final Four

It’s been a while, but basketball royalty is returning to a familiar castle.  For the first time since 1998, Kentucky is headed to the Final Four.

Yesterday’s 22-point effort from an ever-improving Brandon Knight helped lead the Wildcats past North Carolina 76-69 to set up a national semifinal date with UConn in Houston next Saturday.  “We got Kentucky back,” said senior Josh Harrellson.  “A lot of people doubted us.  A lot of people really didn’t think we’d be the team we are.  We really pulled it together as a team, and we’re back now.”

DeAndre Liggins might have had the biggest impact on yesterday’s game with three steals, four assists, 12 points and a key three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining.

Two years ago when UK took a risk and a PR hit by bringing in John Calipari and his reputation — fairly earned or not — the high-hopers in the Bluegrass State would have told you they expected Elite Eights and Final Fours.  That’s just what Coach Cal has given them in his two years in Lexington.  And he’s done it quickly.

“I thought he was building toward it,” said outgoing UK president Lee Todd.  “But I didn’t think this was the year.”  The fact that Kentucky lost so much from last season — an entire starting line-up to the NBA, for example — makes this Calipari’s best-ever coaching job.  His team has gotten better as the season has rolled along.

(We pause here to remember all the crying and whining about UK’s tourney seed two weeks ago.  If your team is hot, the difference between a #3 seed and a #4 seed is microscopic.  As we said at the time, thank you very much.)

This trip will be Kentucky’s 14th to the Final Four.  Only UCLA (18), North Carolina (18) and Duke (15) have more.  It’s Calipari’s third — scratch that — first trip to the Final Four.  His previous trips in 1996 with UMass and in 2008 with Memphis were later vacated due to NCAA issues.

Congrats to the Cats for carrying the SEC banner all the way to Houston.

Some links:

This writer says Coach Cal has proven that he’s more than just a recruiter.

Calipari has convinced UK’s president that if a banner goes up in Lexington this year, it won’t come down.

Kentucky’s coach says he and UConn’s Jim Calhoun aren’t the best of buds.

The end of UK’s Final Four drought came with great emotion.

A number of notable Cat fans chimed in about the victory on Twitter.

Rapper Jay-Z and William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley were waiting for Calipari in UK’s lockerroom after the game.



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