TAMPA, Fla. — It's all about the guards.
That's what they say come NCAA Tournament time. The dance may start with 68 teams, but it's really all about the 136 players whose responsibility it is to handle the ball, or dish the ball, or shoot the ball.
Moreover, it's about the guys with the ball in their hands, the guys who can control the game.
For Kentucky, that is Brandon Knight, only don't tell him that.
"I think our guards will continue to do what they've been doing and play the way we've been playing," Kentucky's star freshman said Wednesday, sitting in the locker room at the St. Petersburg Times Forum for the media interviews, something that, to be honest, he's not all that crazy about.
"I don't think it's really about the guards," Knight continued. "I think it's about the team in general. When you have a good team you're going to win, it's not just based on the guards."
Kentucky could do worse than have it based on its point guard.
Take the just-completed SEC Tournament. From a shooting standpoint, Knight might want you to take the SEC Tournament, please. Over three games, he took 40 shots. He made 14. He took 19 three-pointers. He made four. Still, Knight made the all-tourney team.
Reason: In the Cats' quarterfinal win over Ole Miss, Knight made six of seven free throws over the final 41.2 seconds. In the semifinal win over Alabama, Knight scored 10 points in a second-half burst of 3:09 that turned a comfortable 41-28 Kentucky lead into a 51-30 blowout.
In Sunday's finals, the Florida native scored a team-high 17 points as the Cats flattened Florida 70-54.
"Brandon's playing great," said teammate Darius Miller, who isn't playing too bad himself. "He's doing a great job of running the team. He can score, he can get everybody involved. He's going to be a tough matchup for anybody, I think."
Ah, but right then a media member asked Miller how Knight compared to the previous Kentucky point guard, fellow named John Wall.
Such is life with John Calipari. At Memphis, Tyreke Evans was compared to Derrick Rose. At Kentucky, Knight can't help but be compared to the one who was chosen No. 1 in the NBA Draft.
"They're both really good guys who came in here and did a great job of running the team," Miller answered. "They don't really play the same. I don't know how you explain how John plays. He's one of a kind. Brandon is, too, in his own way."
Wall was more of a distributor who didn't hunt shots. He didn't need to on a team with DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, etc. Knight arrived with a scorer's reputation. Other parts of his game needed expanding.
"Running our team is the main thing," he said Wednesday. "Running my team, making sure I'm leading us and getting us in our sets and things like that. I feel like I've gotten better at that."
"He's starting to speak up and be more vocal on the court," Miller said, "which he needs to do because he's our point guard."
In the NCAA Tournament, Knight could be the focal point. His aim was off inside the Georgia Dome, but no one expects that to continue here on the Florida coast.
"We're not worried about his shooting," Miller said. "Everybody has little tough streaks where they miss shots."
Knight has added to his game in other ways. He was a first-team Freshman All-American as chosen by the U.S. Basketball Writers. Now he's back in his home state — "It's a fun feeling, but it's still not home though," the Fort Lauderdale native said — and ready for his first NCAA Tournament.
He may not agree about the importance of guards, but there have been worse places to showcase your skills.
"I'm pretty excited right now to be here in this situation," Knight said.