Kentucky beat Florida to win the 2011 SEC championship game, and with it becomes a favorite entering the NCAA Tournament field. The Wildcats have had their share of struggles during the past season, but with a team led by freshmen once again, it took a lot of growing pains to get that team to where it now sits. As the SEC champions, Kentucky receives the automatic invite into the NCAA Tournament, but it probably didn’t need it. This is a team that is playing great basketball at the most opportune time, and it could lead to a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the tournament.
Kentucky was ranked No. 16 in the nation coming into the SEC Tournament and had some work to do in order to get through a tough bracket. In order to win the whole thing, Kentucky had to knock off the two top seeds as well as a quarterfinal opponent. On Friday, Kentucky beat Mississippi 75-66 to get into the semifinals against Alabama, which was the No. 1 seed from the West. The Wildcats made easy work of them, winning 72-58 and getting into the championship game against the No. 1 team from the East (Florida). Kentucky again made things look easy on Sunday, beating the Gators 70-54 to clinch yet another postseason conference title.
Kentucky beat Florida with a great effort from four starters scoring in double figures. Point guard Brandon Knight led the way with 17 points, Terrence Jones added 16, and Darius Miller scored 15 more. Knight and Jones are heading toward being selected as lottery choices in the 2011 NBA draft and should join Kentucky center Enes Kanter as freshmen that come off the board very early. Kanter was ruled ineligible earlier in the year, so he isn’t in the lineup to help them right now. That has made it tougher on the other underclassmen, but they are starting to really play a concerted team game over in Kentucky.
The Wildcats have now finished their season with a 25-8 overall record and an SEC championship to go along with it. They aren’t going to be one of the No. 1 seeds in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but they have definitely earned the right to be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Those would basically be the best 12 teams in the country, and Kentucky is playing like they could be one of the Final Four representatives this year. It’s amazing how far they have come since some early season let-downs, but this team is playing as well as any other school in the country right now.
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