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With nine McDonald’s All-Americans between the Cats and Cards, the individual and collective team battles on Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could prove even more interesting than the buildup to the game, and there’s no doubt they will have more to do with the team that moves on to play in the national championship game.
The many aspects involved with playing in the Final Four, from the pressure and expectations, to an altered regimen schedule, to the fact it’s a player living his dream, all of these impact a player’s Final Four experience. Today we look at how two former Kentucky players, Winston Bennett (played in the 1984 Final Four) and Jeff Sheppard (played in the 1996 and 1998 Final Fours and was the ’98 Final Four MVP), dealt with the enormity of the event.
A disdain between the two schools’ fan bases has existed for as long as the two programs have been playing basketball. It runs deep within the foundation of Commonwealth, a way of life in the Bluegrass that makes up the DNA of its citizens.
The players that would combine to form John Calipari’s third straight top-ranked recruiting class all knew one another from the AAU and high school all-star circuits, but the event that annually features the nation’s top seniors served as a transformative moment.
How much those poor shooting performances had to do with where they occurred is up for debate, but Coach Cal’s latest team is about to find out what it’s like to play a basketball game in a place that feels more like an aircraft hangar than a gym. The next step in UK’s heretofore dominant run in the NCAA Tournament will have to be taken in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Louisville Cardinals.