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There's no denying it: Kentucky is poised for eighth title


ATLANTA -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished the game, shook all the hands, then shuffled over to press row for a radio interview with a Kentucky affiliate and asked a very simple question into his headset.

"What up, BBN?"

Answer: Everything.

Everything is up with the Big Blue Nation.

Especially the scoring averages.

The top-ranked Wildcats moved one step closer to an eighth national championship late Friday -- it was actually early Saturday, but whatever -- with a 102-90 victory over Indiana that represented the single best basketball game the nation has experienced during this 2012 NCAA tournament. It featured two traditional powers running up and down the court, almost never turning the ball over, almost never needing a shot clock, almost never giving anybody a chance to breathe. UK made 48.4 percent of its shots. IU made 52.2 percent of its shots. Nobody led by double-digits in the first 29 minutes, and nobody among the 24,731 fans here at the Georgia Dome felt cheated when the final buzzer sounded.

"Indiana played great," said UK coach John Calipari. "We just happened to play a little bit better."

And get fouled a little bit more.

And make free throws at a remarkable rate.

The Wildcats sank 35 of the 37 free throws they attempted -- that's 94.6 percent -- to prevent Indiana from having an opportunity to beat them at the buzzer like Indiana beat them at the buzzer back in December. Kidd-Gilchrist (10 of 10), Doron Lamb (8 of 8) Marquis Teague (6 of 6) and Darius Miller (5 of 5) were all perfect from the line while helping Kentucky close by making 14 consecutive free throws in the final six minutes. That's why it hardly mattered that the Wildcats only produced two field goals in that same span, because points count however they come and these points just wouldn't stop coming.

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"I would say the biggest difference was the foul line," said IU coach Tom Crean, and I would tend to agree. But don't think for a second that the abundance of whistles made for a ho-hum game because they didn't -- even though four early whistles took the two marquee bigs off the court for a while.

Davis got his second foul with 14:05 left in the first half.

IU's Cody Zeller got his 42 seconds later.

So the biggest difference-makers on both sides were consequently in chairs next to assistant coaches for most of the first half, but the offenses didn't slow. The final 13 minutes of the first half were a treat, and Crean's gamble to play Zeller for a few minutes despite the two fouls allowed the Hoosiers to keep it close and enter the locker room trailing by the reasonable margin of 50-47.

Indiana had a chance.

But …

Kentucky never squandered that lead. Yes, the Hoosiers seemed on the verge of breaking through many times, but they just couldn't because they never got enough stops to make that possible -- mostly because Kidd-Gilchrist kept attacking and offensive rebounding en route to a 24-point, 12-rebound performance that displayed all the things that'll someday make him a great professional.

"Mike's a spectacular player," said Davis, the CBSSports.com National Player of the Year who finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes. "He played spectacular. Knocked down shots. Scored when we needed him. Got the and-ones. Went perfect from the line ... and had 10 rebounds along with 24 points. That says it all about Michael right there."

So now the Wildcats are just one win away from New Orleans and three wins away from the goal.

That's not how Kentucky is looking at this, obviously.

But that's the reality of the situation.

"I don't want them to feel all this," Calipari said. "It seems like there's only one team that is not allowed to lose in this tournament, and that's us. But I don't want them to feel that."

Then I'd suggest a bubble.

Because we've reached the point where the expectations on this team are impossible to deny and growing very difficult to ignore. One No. 1 seed (Michigan State) is gone, another (Syracuse) is playing without its starting center and the other (North Carolina) has a starting point guard just six days removed from surgery to repair a broken wrist. In other words, everything has aligned perfectly for Calipari's team that's won 35 of the 37 games it's played, and it should be noted that the Wildcats are 6-0 against fellow Elite Eight schools.

They've played four of the other remaining seven teams.

They've beaten UNC, KU and Louisville once each.

They've beaten Florida three times.

So Calipari can spin things however he likes, and he will. But considering the teams left and the adversity facing some of them, anything less than a championship at this juncture will be viewed as a major disappointment, and, deep down, Calipari -- not to mention everybody else in the BBN that Kidd-Gilchrist shouted out on the radio moments after slaying Indiana -- must realize that's the case.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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