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Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful for UK's Final Four matchup with Wisconsin due to an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful for UK's Final Four matchup with Wisconsin due to an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas - Willie Cauley-Stein is out of the boot he had been wearing on his injured left ankle, but the chances he plays Saturday vs. Wisconsin in the Final Four still look slim. 

"Don't count me out yet," Cauley-Stein said Friday during Kentucky's open locker room media availability. "I don't know yet. I'm still figuring out if I want to give it a try or not."

Cauley-Stein, who took some shots during UK's open practice but still had a noticeable limp walking to and from the locker room, said his ankle is doing better and said "there's always a possibility" he could play. But he also realizes the long-term implications of rushing back if his ankle isn't healed.

"It could get worse or it could, you know, stay the same, but that's kind of the unknown is could it get worse and then have to do something worse than I thought I was going to have to," said Cauley-Stein, who left the game at the 13:05 mark of the Louisville game and hasn't returned since.

As for what the actual ankle injury is, Cauley-Stein isn't shedding much light. Asked if it was a possible stress fracture, Cauley-Stein said "it could be that," but that he wasn't listening when the team doctor was doing an X-ray on it.

He said he was "checked out" at the time.

"They thought it was a really bad sprain," Cauley-Stein said. "There's just so many different things. It was swollen when they took an X-ray on it so you really couldn't tell anything."

Cauley-Stein believes the injury is actually a pre-existing one that finally gave out.

"I think I injured it during the K-State game in the second half and I just played for the rest of that weekend and then practiced on it," he said. "And then I went into the Louisville game still hurting and I honestly, the whole week, was just babying it. Like if I had to turn around real quick I would hop on one foot and not really turn around on that foot. And then in the game I just forgot about it and then I just tried to do it normal and I just heard this pop. That's when you see me limping and stuff."

Cauley-Stein said the ankle feels better than it did the day before and the day before that.

"When I was first on crutches and in a boot I probably really needed the crutches and the boot," he said. "Now when I try to walk on it and run a little bit--pretty much just scooted around and dragged it (before); I didn't really walk on it. Now I can walk heel to toe a little bit. It's just feeling better all around."

Does that mean we could see a Willis Reed-like emergence Saturday against Wisconsin? Reed, in game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals, played through a torn muscle and started against the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed made the New York Knicks' first two baskets before leaving the game and not returning, but he's long been credited with inspiring his teammates to victory and an NBA championship.

Cauley-Stein wasn't sure who Reed was when he was asked about him Friday but he pointed out the circumstances of his injury are completely different.

"It being in my foot and my ankle, like you really can't move laterally or anything like that," Cauley-Stein said. "You can just limp or kind of hobble around. If it was on my like thigh or my hip or something like that it would be easier and I would feel like all that weight's not directly on that spot that's hurting."

Cauley-Stein admitted it's hurt to watch from the bench the last two games.

"This is what you work so hard for and then to have it taken away from you is really heartbreaking," he said. "You just kind of have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they're accomplishing and just enjoy the ride with them."

He plans on doing exactly that regardless of whether he plays this weekend.

"I want them to get to Monday and do something special," Cauley-Stein said.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Dezerea Bryant (Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire) Dezerea Bryant (Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire)
Entering this the third weekend of the outdoor track and field season, members of the team will have perhaps their best chance this year to perform at their best,

A select group of Wildcats produced times/marks in the first two weeks of the year that will be good enough to rank in the top-32 of the Region and qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships.

The rest of the Wildcats have but one goal this regular season: to record a qualifying time/mark.

Pretty much nothing else matters until that mark is recorded. Only after getting a mark does the focus shift toward tapering training in preparation for the championship season.

And almost all of the Wildcats who got their qualifying times early are now in search of qualifying in other events.

Should the forecast hold, this weekend could be as good a time as ever to get those so-far elusive times and marks.

The majority of the top Wildcats will compete at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla., where the weather on Friday is expected to be in the 80s and sunny. Three of UK's top distance runners have traveled to Stanford, Calif., to run against the nation's elite when it comes to multi-lap races.

Head coach Edrick Floreal chose those two meet locales for this weekend quite consciously. During the spring months in the United States, the time of year upon which the heart of the collegiate track and field season resides, weather is unpredictable.

At least of Friday in Florida it will be sunny and warm. In Northern California Floreal knows as well as anyone that sunshine seems to be a permanent condition, even if it may be a bit cool.

"You don't know what the weather is going to be the rest of the year," Floreal told the team on Thursday. "Everything else could be rained out. The rest of the regular season, our meets are mostly in and around Kentucky and we have the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and Triton Invitational in San Diego for throwers.

"You never know what the weather is going to be like. It could be really cold and rainy the rest of the year. This weekend we're going to have good weather so my suggestion is to take advantage."

Indeed bad weather will not be an excuse for the Wildcats competing on Friday. Similarly, competition level will not be a category worthy of complaint.

Both the Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational boast fields that rival any meet all season. Both are littered with national champions and All-Americans.

The Florida Relays has a strong reputation as one of the best early-season meets for the top sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers.

The Stanford Invitational, in contrast, is widely considered the nation's top early-season meet for elite distance runners. Many of those distance standouts will make their outdoor debuts there.

Floreal is all too aware of this. After all, he was largely responsible for building and enhancing the Invitational's reputation when he was director of track and field at Stanford for six seasons between 2006-2012.

Both the ideal weather and competitiveness of the Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational could mean the UK track and field teams are in for some eye-catching results this weekend.

At least that's the plan.

What to Watch
Kendra Harrison's 400m hurdles debut

Kendra Harrison ran the fastest 100m hurdles time by any American this season last weekend at the Texas Relays. She will follow that up this weekend by debuting in the 400m hurdles at Florida Relays.

After hurdling only over 60 meters throughout the indoor season, the UK coaching staff has now determined she has developed the stamina needed for what many consider track and field's most grueling event: 400 meters over hurdles.

Harrison's debut will be eagerly anticipated across the country. She is the top returner from the 2013 NCAA Championships in the event. She placed fourth; the top-three finishers were seniors.

Bryant's first 200 meters outside

Dezerea Bryant, the 2014 NCAA Indoor 200m Champion, will compete at the distance for the first time outdoors this year.

The 200m at Florida Relays will provide Bryant with a nice early test. The field's other headliner is Kyra Jefferson of Florida, who was runner-up to Bryant at the NCAA Championships.

Bryant certainly showed she's still in strong form last weekend at Texas Relays. She ran the fourth fastest all-conditions 100m dash in the world this year, a wind-assisted 11.13 (+2.7).

Kayla Parker's Florida homecoming
The Florida Relays will provide a homecoming of sorts for team captain and All-American hurdler Kayla Parker.

Parker is a native of Port Saint Joe on the Panhandle. She is scheduled to compete in the 100m hurdles, in her home state for the first time in a few years, certainly since she emerged as one of the SEC's best.

Throwers look to continue progression
Kentucky boasts a strong group of throwers littered with All-Americans.

But for the first few weeks this year, few of those Wildcats have performed at their best so far this outdoor campaign. That's not something to panic about, it's still quite early and even below their best, some have already posted qualifying marks.

Still UK's throwers are a competitive group. They want to win. This weekend will provide such an opportunity.

Distance outlook
Matt Hillenbrand and Adam Kahleifeh finished 1-2 in the SEC Indoor 3,000m Championship. They'll make their 5k debut at the Stanford Invitational looking to take advantage of a fast field.

Mackay Wilson will look to do the same in the 3k steeplechase as he races that event for the first time since the 2013 NCAA East Regional.

Those three traveled to Stanford separate from the rest of UK's elite runners, who journeyed to Florida. for one basic reason: to run fast against other fast runners.

Aaron Harrison has scored 15 points combined in the final five minutes of UK's last three games. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Aaron Harrison has scored 15 points combined in the final five minutes of UK's last three games. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Anyone who's watched Kentucky's last three games needs not be told the Wildcats have been clutch in advancing to the Final Four.

When UK needs a big 3-pointer, there's Aaron Harrison or James Young. When the Cats need an important free throw, Andrew Harrison calmly steps to the line.

You surely remember many of the big plays UK used to take down three 2013 Final Four teams. But until you look back on the collection of them all, it's not entirely clear just how good the Cats have been when it mattered most.

UK has had 22 total possessions that started in the final five minutes of wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan and scored a ridiculous average of two points per possession. Only twice has UK come up empty on a possession during the stretch, and never when trailing.

It began against Wichita State with the Cats down five and on the brink of a round-of-32 exit. With no room for error, UK scored on its final seven possessions -- 14 points and two points per possession -- and survived a last-second 3-point attempt by Fred VanVleet to advance. The Cats hit 9 of 12 free throws, 2 of 3 from the field and grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.

Against U of L, the Cats were down 64-57 when they took over with 4:48 to go. Aaron Harrison snared a defensive rebound, raced the length of the floor, drew a foul and hit two free throws to get his team going for the game's final nine possessions. Including Aaron Harrison's free throws, UK would score on eight of those possessions, racking up 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, 7 of 8 from the line and another two offensive rebounds.

To clinch a spot in the Final Four, the Cats just didn't miss at all. Protecting a one-point lead against Michigan, UK made its final five shots, including three 3s by Aaron Harrison. The only empty possession came on a shot-clock violation, UK's only turnover in the final five minutes of any of their last three games.

Here are the composite offensive stats for all three games:

  • 22 possessions
  • 44 points
  • Two points per possession
  • 11 of 15 (73.3 percent) from the field
  • 5 of 6 (83.3 percent) from 3
  • 17 of 21 (80.1 percent) from the free-throw line
  • One turnover
  • Four rebounds on seven free misses (offensive-rebounding percentage of .571)

And believe it or not, UK has even better when trailing:

  • Nine possessions
  • 21 points
  • 2.33 points per possession
  • 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the field
  • 2 of 2 from 3
  • 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the line
  • Zero turnovers
  • Four rebounds on five free misses (offensive-rebounding percentage of .800)

In playing three straight instant classics, UK has likely raised the collective blood pressure of the Big Blue Nation. The Cats, however, hardly seem to register a pulse when it comes to crunch time.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- With everything going on in Orlando Antigua's head these days, if he can sleep it's from pure exhaustion.

As Kentucky prepares for Wisconsin in the Final Four, Antigua's not only worrying about how to slow down Frank Kaminsky and the highly efficient Badger offense, he's also got a new program to build, players to recruit and a foundation to set at South Florida, where he took the head-coaching job on Monday.

Fortunately for Antigua and the Cats, USF gave Antigua permission to stay through UK's Final Four run this weekend, allowing Antigua to focus on finishing Kentucky's late-season run.

"You try to take one thing at a time right now," Antigua said. "Mark (Harlan) has been gracious to obviously allow me to finish out this run that we have going. I try to text message with the kids back at South Florida just to make sure that they're watching and taking care of their academics while we're here."

His kids right now, though, still wear blue and white and they've still got an objective to complete at the Final Four in Arlington, Texas. Antigua said those kids "look great" heading into Saturday's national semifinals.

"They're working hard," Antigua said. "Crazy enough, still got room to grow. That's exciting us. We're trying to push them every day."

Antigua got emotional at Monday's USF press conference in Tampa, Fla., when he started to think about and thank everyone who helped him earn the head-coaching opportunity. Those people included the players, who were "ecstatic" for their coach.

"When I got back from the press conference they all started busting my chops," Antigua said. "But it's great. They're a great group of kids and I'm really happy for the experience that I got a chance to have by being at Kentucky and being with the staff. The administration has been phenomenal and the relationships that I've built there will be relationships that I think I'll have for the rest of my career."

Of course, one of the most important and most influential relationships he had was with John Calipari, whom Antigua has served under for the last six seasons (five at Kentucky and one at Memphis).

Antigua said he's always wanted to become a head coach since getting into the business, but it took some mentoring and experience from working under Coach Cal and Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh to prepare him to run his own program.

"(Calipari) taught me how to adjust to the personnel that you have, how to keep challenging kids, how to keep raising the bar," Antigua said.

In the coming months and years we'll see if Calipari taught him how to schedule. Asked Thursday if he'd get a home-and-home series with UK given the connections, Antigua smiled knowing full well that negotiating a deal like that with Coach Cal won't be so easy.

"I hope so," he said. "I hope to eventually maybe work something out, but haven't even gotten that far down the line."

Capture the flag


By now you are probably well aware of the type of historic path Kentucky has had to conquer to make it to the Final Four.

Among the most notable achievements:

  • UK is the first school even to knock off three of the four Final Four teams from the previous season
  • According to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, the Cats' path, seeding-wise, is the toughest any team has had to navigate since LSU in 1986.

Thursday, at the first of two Final Four media appearances, Coach Cal said he didn't even know what to call what the Cats just went through.

"We got here through an absolute mine field and happened to not step on a mine," he said.

Now that they can see the flag they're trying to capture, Calipari is trying to make sure his guys don't wander off their path and step on one of those mines.

"Now my whole mission is to make sure we're not satisfied, that this team is still striving," he said.

Still freshmen

There's a notion among some coaches that when you get to this stage in the year, freshmen are no longer freshmen. Some like to say they have the experience of a sophomore and can play like veterans.

Last Calipari checked, his freshmen hadn't been granted any type of waiver to skip a year in college.

"They're still freshmen," Calipari said.

But there is some truth that these freshmen are more experienced than any other ones in college. UK's freshmen have accounted for 75.3 percent of the Cats' minutes this year.

It took nearly every second for them to finally capitalize on that experience.

"It took us four months," Calipari said. "So now they got it. They're young. It takes time. You cannot skip steps. We all want to skip steps. We all want freshmen to be sophomores and juniors."

It's Kentucky - what do you expect?


It didn't take long for Calipari to answer a reporter's question on Thursday as to why his program can sometimes be a magnet for criticism.

"It's Kentucky," Coach Cal quickly shot back.

The reporter, a little surprised by such a quick answer, then wondered if he had a sense that some people enjoyed when UK was struggling in the regular season. Again, Calipari had the same answer.

"It's Kentucky," he said. "It's what you buy into if you want to coach at Kentucky or play at Kentucky. You got some guys with agendas. You got some guys that, you know, it's that program. It's part of it."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

UK, Wisconsin not so different after all

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Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kentucky and Wisconsin are being cast as a study in contrasting styles.

In one corner there are the Wildcats, the crew of super-talented youngsters, and the other the Badgers, the veterans who rely on cohesiveness and half-court execution.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, however, doesn't exactly see things that way.

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole," Ryan said on Monday. "We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

There's certainly some truth to Ryan's words, but it's also a bit of an oversimplification.

UK and Wisconsin, of course, are teams that get the job done on both ends of the floor in different ways. Let's explore kenpom.com's advanced statistics to explore those differences.

When Kentucky is on offense

Julius Randle has always been a basketball fan, so he was familiar with Wisconsin before UK even began scouting the Badgers for the Final Four.

"Just growing up I've always known Wisconsin just to be a hard-nosed, tough team," Randle said. "They play really good defense."

That's true again this year, as Wisconsin ranks 45th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Badgers are sound defensively on the strength of their ability to play without fouling and close out possessions with defensive rebounds.

Wisconsin is third nationally in defensive free-throw rate, yielding just 15.1 free-throw attempts per game. By contrast, UK is ninth nationally in offensive free-throw rate. Don't think, however, that the Cats can't get the job done when they aren't getting to the line. Against Michigan, UK scored 1.26 points per possession -- its highest total of the tournament -- in spite of hitting just six free throws in 11 attempts.

The Badgers are also tireless workers on the defensive glass, ranking 13th in rebounding rate, but they haven't faced Kentucky yet. The Cats lead the nation in offensive-rebounding rate, claiming 42.5 percent of their own misses. And less than two weeks ago, UK faced off against an even better defensive rebounding team in Wichita State and still snagged 10 of its 29 misses.

Wisconsin relies on sound positioning in its man defense, not often gambling to force turnovers. The Badgers' opponents have committed turnovers on just 15.6 percent of possessions (322nd nationally) while UK is middle of the pack (174th nationally) taking care of the ball.

Just because the Badgers don't force many turnovers, don't think passing the ball against them is easy. Wisconsin allows assists on just 40.1 percent of opponents' made field goals, the third-lowest rate in the nation.

Also of note is that just 25.8 percent of field goals attempted against Wisconsin come from 3-point range, the eighth-lowest rate in the nation. Though UK is shooting the ball remarkably well, this isn't necessarily bad news for UK. The Cats are at their best when they attack the basket.

When Kentucky is on defense


As good as Randle has always known Wisconsin to be on defense, he's not oblivious to the fact that the Badgers are among the best offensive teams in the country even though they score just 73.5 points per game.

"Of course, our team's already been informed that this is one of the better offensive teams that they have had, and they really can score the ball, move the ball," Randle said.

Thanks to that ball movement, the Badgers almost never turn the ball over. Wisconsin has committed single-digit turnovers in 26 of 37 games, including two remarkable two-turnover performances, en route to ranking second in turnover rate. Considering UK is 301st in defensive turnover rate, don't expect many Wisconsin mistakes on Saturday evening.

With UK's size advantage and Wisconsin's preference for getting back on defense over crashing the glass, don't expect many Badger offensive rebounds either. Wisconsin is 274th nationally in offensive-rebounding rate.

The Badgers get by on offense without many rebounds because they shoot the ball so well to begin with. Wisconsin is 32nd nationally in effective field-goal percentage (.533) and UK 35th in effective field-goal percentage defense (.458). The team that wins this battle could well be playing for the national championship on Monday.

Bottom line

Tempo has a lot to do with the supposed contrast between Kentucky and Wisconsin, but a look at the numbers reveals two teams more similar than you might think.

Wisconsin ranks 287th nationally in adjusted tempo, playing just 63.4 possessions per game. UK, meanwhile, is 226th in adjusted tempo, playing just 66.2 possessions per game and 61 in the NCAA Tournament.

As friends John Calipari and Ryan match wits for the first time, be prepared for a grind-it-out affair. The pace might not be frenetic and the final score might be in the 60s, but these are two teams playing their best offense of the season.

"You're playing for either one of these teams, I mean, there's no such thing as an underdog," Randle said. "It's just going to be a hard-fought game, and I think that's what both teams are looking forward to."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Video: Antigua on taking USF job, time at UK

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Calipari hopes to rebrand one-and-done

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John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ever since a record-setting five Kentucky players went in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, the "one-and-done" label has been pinned on John Calipari and his program like a tail on a donkey.

For better or worse, Kentucky has become, reputation-wise, the place to go to play for a year and then head to the NBA after one season.

Calipari, who has long maintained that he's against the one-and-done rule but is playing by the rules, doesn't understand why kids are criticized for pursuing their dreams if the opportunity presents itself.

"Until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are," Coach Cal said on Monday on his weekly radio show. " 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

Greg Anthony, a former UNLV star and analyst for CBS, spoke on a Final Four teleconference earlier in the week and said he is sick of hearing about the one-and-done rule altogether. After all, UK isn't the only program that went after the John Walls and the Anthony Davises in high school; it just so happens to be the one that landed the most.

"I'm so tired of everyone talking about the one-and-done from this standpoint: Every one of those damn kids for Kentucky, everyone else would have signed them if they decided to go there," Anthony said. "Every high-school kid coming in as a freshman would go one-and-done if they had ability for the most part."

It's worth noting that one-and-done talent like Andrew Wiggins went to Kansas, Aaron Gordon went to Arizona and Jabari Parker went to Duke.

But the one-and-done rule is a hot subject again at this week's Final Four because of the unprecedented youth and potential NBA players Calipari has brought to Arlington, Texas. On its road to the Final Four - a path Coach Cal called a "mine field" - UK has relied heavily on its youth, starting five freshmen throughout the tournament and getting 89.8 percent of its points from freshmen.

As a point of reference, the famous Fab Five accounted for 75.3 percent of Michigan's scoring during the 1991-92 season. The Cats' freshmen, many of whom will have an NBA decision to make after the NCAA Tournament run ends, have accounted for 81.8 percent on the season.

With all that said, a young player helping a team to the Final Four and then weighing his pro aspirations at the end of the season is still perceived negatively among the masses.

"One-and-done has now become a bad connotation," Coach Cal said.

And until the rules change, the negative perception is here to say, Calipari realizes. No matter how many times he says they don't talk about turning pro until after the season, it's going to be viewed in a dim light.

So Coach Cal has a solution: a new name.

"We're going to break out something new this week to get you guys off this one-and-done so that we can think about (it) in another term, which is trying to help these kids do what they're trying to do as college students, as where they want their careers to go," Calipari said.

The idea behind the rebranding is to change the idea that just because a player may turn pro early that he isn't a college athlete.

"Does a player have to be here four years to be a terrific college player?" Calipari said. "The last four years, our grade-point average has been a 3.0. Our (NCAA Academic Progress Rate) is as high as anybody in the country. They're college students; they're just not college students for four years in most cases, but in some they are."

So, Calipari hopes to unveil something this weekend - perhaps during the next media availability on Friday - that will get that message across. What it is remains to be seen, but Coach Cal did ask for answers on his radio show earlier in the week and actually received some via social media.

Among the best were "Succeed then Proceed," "Learn then Earn" "Learn and Turn."

They're all better than the one-and-done label in the eyes of Calipari.

"All I got to say to Cal is when somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when my mom would give me a pork chop or a piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, 'No, one-and-done,' " Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.

Ryan is confident that if the name isn't going to change, the rules will soon. Perhaps the bad connotation will die with it.

"We're (Calipari and Ryan) both on the board of directors with the NABC and we have talked about this quite a bit," Ryan said. "I'm sure there's something coming down the road that's going to alter that. But all we know is we just want our players to get the most out of the experience and I think we both are coaching guys that understand what that's all about."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

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If you are looking for 'Cats 2014 Final Four merchandise, look no further than the official store of UK Athletics, UKTeamShop.com. UK Team Shop has the best choice of Final Four apparel, including the Nike Locker Room T-shirt the players wore after the big win over Michigan. Click on the link below to see the full selection.

http://www.ukteamshop.com/source/bmbh_ukfinal4

Gymnastics looking for consistency in NCAA Regionals

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Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Consistency.

Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Kentucky gymnastics team has turned in solid performances on each of the four events in a meet. However, it's putting it all together at once that will allow Kentucky's season to live on, which the Wildcats have yet to do this season.

UK head coach Tim Garrison has preached consistency to his team as the NCAA Regional quickly approaches. It's the one thing that has escaped his team throughout the course of the season, and in order for Kentucky to advance to the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, the Cats will need to heed the message.

"We still have yet to put a complete meet together," said Garrison who is in his third season at UK. "In my mind, we've improved in a lot of ways; we still haven't shown 100 percent of that improvement all at one time, which is something we're looking forward to doing this weekend."

The Wildcats will put their skills to the test this weekend in State College, Pa., joining No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, New Hampshire and Maryland in the program's 26th NCAA appearance, including 10 straight. In the 25 previous appearances, UK has never advanced to the NCAA Championships. Hence the reason Garrison has instilled the concept that his team needs to be consistent to earn a top two finish and a berth in the NCAA Championships.

This year's NCAA Regional has put the Wildcats in a great position to claim that first NCAA Finals appearance. For instance, Kentucky is familiar with the venue in State College, having competed at Penn State last season. Coincidentally, the Wildcats registered a school record mark of 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State's Rec Hall, which is where this weekend's regional will be held.

Also, earlier this season, UK defeated Penn State in the season-opening meet, as part of a four-team event in Lexington.

"We think we have a favorable draw, I think for several different reasons," Garrison explained. "One, we're comfortable with Penn State. We're comfortable with the arena. We've competed against Penn State this year and had a favorable result. Obviously, that was the first meet of the year, but still it was a good result for us, so we're comfortable with that fact."

It all starts with building momentum.

Many times a meet can be determined with how a team starts. Garrison is hoping his team can build some early momentum to control the jitters and settle his team down to begin a consistent performance.

"Obviously we need a good start on bars," Garrison said. "There's a bit of momentum that comes along with getting into a competition and doing well and building momentum. It has to start somewhere and that momentum is going to have to start on bars. I'm looking for consistency. I'm looking to save every tenth we can possibly save. I'm looking to build momentum. I'm looking to put pressure on the other teams."

Kentucky's rotation will be bars, beam, bye, floor and vault. The rotation gives the Wildcats an early chance to build momentum, as the uneven bars have proven to be a good event this season.

"We have a great rotation," Garrison said. "We're starting off on bars, which is a good event for us. We go to beam, which is second, and we're settling down and we're into the competition by that point. Then we go to floor and we finish off on vault. Floor and vault this year are two very strong events for us, so we're looking forward to finishing on strong events."

Senior Audrey Harrison, who will compete in all four events, will carry some of the burden of building and sustaining that momentum and consistency.

"I definitely think we have a great chance this year," said Harrison about the team advancing to the NCAA Championships. "It's definitely possible and our confidence has been building throughout the season, so I think it can all come together and we can hit all four events at the same time, which would be awesome."

Every little detail matters when postseason arrives. Building momentum to start the meet is vital. Consistency throughout the competition is crucial.

The stage is set for the Wildcats, now they just have to take advantage.

"I think we're going to have to have a good day," Garrison said. "I think we have the team. I think we have the draw. It really is set up well for us to be successful in many different ways. Every region is going to be tough. You have six teams going in and they're all very competitive or else they wouldn't be there. You have to be one of the top two teams to come out of the region. They're going to be tough, every single one of them."

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