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Did Kentucky play its ‘title game’ on Saturday?

Apr 1, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

Final Four - Louisville v Kentucky Getty Images

As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Kentucky’s 69-61 win over Louisville on Saturday night, Anthony Davis fired the ball up at the rafters. As the buzzer sounded, he looked up at the Kentucky fans and started screaming: “This is my stage!”* Five seconds later, he was getting bear-hugged by fellow freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. All this happened just a few minutes after Davis screamed in the ear of Terrence Jones after Jones threw down a powerful dunk in traffic.

Why is this significant?

Because Davis is as stoic as they come. He said all the right things to the media afterwards, but it was quite clear to anyone watching the game that this game meant more to Davis — and to the Wildcats — than just a ‘typical’ Final Four game.

They beat Louisville. They ended their archrivals season on the sports biggest stage. That is significant. But the emotional response from the Wildcats begs the question: was the win too big?

Kentucky will face Kansas, a team they already beat back in November, on Monday for the national title, but one has to wonder whether or not Kentucky already played their ‘title game’, so to speak. With all the buildup leading into their date with Louisville and with all the hype that surrounded that game in the state of Kentucky, will there be a letdown on Monday?

Kentucky looked like a team on a mission on Saturday night. And while it is easy to say that their mission is a national title, the rare emotional response from Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist makes you wonder.

(*He may or may not have actually said a four-letter word that starts with ‘s’ and ends with ‘hit’ instead of stage, but he told reporters at the press conference that he said stage and not, well, the other word.)

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