INDIANAPOLIS — Go back to last April the first preseason projections came out, unanimously proclaiming the Kentucky Wildcats No. 1 before most of their players had ever been in a college game. Go back to October when John Calipari came out at Midnight Madness and proclaimed, "Kentucky is college basketball."
All along, the end result of this Kentucky season was supposed to be the Final Four and perhaps a national championship for a recruiting class hailed as perhaps the best in history.
But somewhere along the way, the Wildcats became underdogs, almost afterthoughts, tumbling out of the top-25 right before the NCAA tournament got underway.
For these Wildcats, though, fulfilling their destiny was only a matter of time — most of all, whether they'd have enough of it.
And now, after beating Michigan 75-72 in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, they'll get at least one more week. For the third time in five seasons since John Calipari became head coach, Kentucky is headed to the Final Four, where it will face Wisconsin next Saturday in the national semifinals.
In a furious finish that saw momentum swing both ways over the final few minutes, it was freshman guard Aaron Harrison delivering the final blow, draining a three-pointer from the left wing over the outstretched arm of Caris LeVert with just 2.3 seconds remaining.
As Michigan's Nik Stauskas missed from halfcourt at the buzzer, the Wildcats dogpiled in celebration.
Though in some ways this was the plan all along, it also ranks as perhaps the unlikeliest Final Four trip of Calipari's career.
Less than a month ago, Kentucky lost to woeful South Carolina, dropping to 21-8 and ensuring itself of a disappointing seed in the NCAA tournament. But somehow, the light came on for the Wildcats at the SEC tournament, as they demolished LSU and Georgia losing 61-60 to No. 1 Florida in the championship game.
That momentum carried over into the NCAA tournament, where Kentucky came in as a No. 8 seed, breaking through in the Round of 32 with a 78-76 victory. Then came Friday's 74-69 victory against rival Louisville, another game decided in the final few seconds.
And once again Sunday, the Wildcats made the tough plays when it mattered.
Despite getting chewed up at times by Michigan's complex offense, Kentucky's was dominant inside, shooting 53.4% for the game. It also made 7-for-11 from three-point range, including 4-for-6 for Harrison, all in the second half.
Harrison made another huge a three-pointer with two minutes left, giving Kentucky a 72-67 lead. But Michigan wouldn't quit, getting right back in the game with a 3-pointer by Glenn Robinson III, a defensive stop, and then a tip-in to tie the game with 31.5 seconds left by Jordan Morgan after three offensive rebounds.
It was a disappointing end for Michigan, which shot 47.4% and led by as many as 10 points in the first half but eventually got worn down by Kentucky's array of big bodies. Kentucky scored 46 points in the paint and outrebounded Michigan 46-36. Kentucky forward Julius Randle scored 16 points with 11 rebounds and little-used freshman Marcus Lee, stepping in for injured Willie Cauley-Stein, finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
How unlikely was Lee's performance? Before Sunday, Lee had two double-figure scoring games all season: In Kentucky's opener against UNC-Asheville and on Nov. 19 against Texas-Arlington. He didn't get off the bench in seven of Kentucky's games prior to the NCAA Tournament and scored four field goals the entire SEC slate.