Commentary

Cal has Cats playing best ball in NCAAs

Updated: March 19, 2011, 6:09 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I remember when Kentucky coach John Calipari told me earlier in the season that his only concern was the NCAA tournament. Calipari was not concerned about his team losing to Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas on the road during the SEC regular season.

While some people wondered what was wrong with Big Blue, Calipari wanted to make sure his team got better and better. I think the results speak for themselves. The Wildcats won the SEC tournament championship, scoring an impressive win over Florida in the finals.

Now Kentucky has won twice in the big dance, moving on to the Sweet 16. Both Ws, over Princeton and West Virginia, did not come easily. As my old buddy Jim Valvano used to say, "Survive and Advance."

On Saturday, diaper dandy Brandon Knight scored 30 big points against the Mountaineers. That was pretty good considering he had one basket against the Tigers -- of course it was the game-winner, baby!

Calipari must have had an interesting speech at halftime against West Virginia. His Wildcats outscored Bob Huggins' team 38-22 after intermission; Kentucky was down eight at half.

It should not come as a surprise that Calipari is having success in the NCAA tournament. Between Memphis and Kentucky, this will be his sixth straight trip to the Sweet 16. He has his players prepared come tourney time.

Talk about peaking at the right time. The Wildcats' win over West Virginia gives UK an eight-game win streak.

One player who has really stepped up is big man on campus Josh Harrellson. I have said all along that guys like DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Harrellson had to come through and help diaper dandies Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Knight. Harrellson certainly has been a force in the tourney, scoring 30 points, grabbing 18 rebounds while shooting 14-of-18 from the field over the first two NCAA tournament games.

The young Kentucky team has done a good job with the basketball. The Wildcats have totaled 19 turnovers in the first two games of the big dance.

Now the Wildcats have a potential matchup against top-seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16 if the Buckeyes get past George Mason. My friends, Ohio State-Kentucky would be like a Final Four showdown, it has that much luster and intensity. If that happens, I cannot wait to watch that one!

Right now, the fans in Big Blue country down in Lexington have a lot to smile about.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.