The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Kentucky’s rally to beat Florida keeps its hopes of an at-large bid alive

The Dagger

View photo

.

(AP)

They're in. They're out. They're in. They're out. They're...

It's been that way for weeks now for defending national champion Kentucky when it comes to making the NCAA tournament. On the final Saturday of the regular season the Wildcats faced a must-win game against No. 11 Florida and found a way to earn that victory down the stretch 61-57 and breathe new life into their postseason hopes.

[Also: Don't bury the Big East tournament yet]

Kentucky is trying to avoid becoming the third defending champion to miss the tournament in the past six seasons. Florida (2008) and North Carolina (2010) were the most recent teams to suffer that embarrassment.

Kentucky was left for dead just two days ago following a listless outing against a mediocre Georgia team that followed a loss to Arkansas. Coach John Calipari admitted afterward he hasn't done a good job coaching this season's team.

Regardless of how much truth was in that statement, his team responded against the Gators, especially in the winning moments. The Wildcats finished on an 11-0 run and held the Gators without a point in the final 7 minutes. Kentucky trailed by seven with fewer than 6 minutes remaining but surged ahead by finding ways to score and preventing the Gators from doing so.

Kentucky seemed to make every play down the stretch with Willie Cauley-Stein using his length and athleticism to make a major impact on the defensive end. Cauley-Stein played the final 13 minutes with four fouls.

The Wildcats remain on the bubble but in a more favorable position now than before the game. They earned their second victory over a team in top 50 RPI standings and beat the regular season Southeastern Conference champion.

[Also: IU's Victor Oladipo succeeds despite lack of support from father]

At 21-10 overall and 12-6 in the SEC, Kentucky can help itself with a deep run in the conference tournament next week. It could use a few more quality wins and would need to get to the semifinals to make that happen. The Wildcats appear likely to earn a spot in the field and an opportunity to defend their title if they can make that run.

Want to join the conversation? Follow @YahooDagger on Twitter and @KyleRingo and be sureto "Like" The Dagger on Facebook for basketball conversations and stuff you won't see on the blog.

College basketball video from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Mariano Rivera's closing act reveals a portrait in grace, humility
NFL's new free-agency negotiating window causing tension
Brandon Jennings hints at hardball negotiations with Bucks
Is beer at college football games a good idea?

View Comments