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ACT III: Gators and Cats collide for SEC Championship

Kentucky-florida-031014(Courtesy NCAA.com)

ATLANTA -- What a difference a week makes. 

Eight days after No. 1 Florida walloped Kentucky in Gainesville -- UF's largest winning-margin (19 points) in series history -- John Calipari's youthful Wildcats look (and feel) like a new team.

Engineered by Calipari's much-publicized "tweaks," Kentucky trounced LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals before dispatching Georgia to advance to the league's title game. 

"We're not the same team we were two, three weeks ago," Calipari said.

"They're just starting to come together. It took time. We're starting five freshmen, folks. Five freshmen trying to do something unique and special. This team, they're starting to come together. We're now one of those teams that you would hope we would have been two months ago, but so what. It took time. I'm good with it. ...This team just needed something to get them over the hump and they're doing it now."

The upset-minded 'Cats look to end Florida's school-record 25-game winning streak today at 3:15 on ESPN. Meanwhile, the Gators hope to become the first team since Tennessee in 1978-79 to beat UK three times in one season. 

While UK's boisterous freshmen openly relish the opporunity to play the nation's top-ranked team for a third time, Calipari -- in his most Lou Holtz-ian hyperbolic state -- does not. 

"I've had enough of Florida. For four years I've seen the same guys," Calipari siad. "What a great team. What a great story. What a great coaching job. You're talking about a team that it's almost an honor to play a team like that. I understand when this game is close, they will not give you the game, and if you don't fight like heck, they're taking it from you. That's who they are and that's who they have been all year. I don't see it changing.

"Now, that means when we go against them, you're going to have to take it. They will not give it to you. As you're trying to take it, they're trying to take it from you. So they absolutely bashed us down there. We weren't even in the game. Then we make a 15-0 run and get it close, and then they bash us again. My players can all say what they want. I'm not looking forward to playing Florida again. But you know what? We are here, I don't think they're going to let us leave, so we're going to go play this game and see what happens."

Measure versus might. 

Should be fun. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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