NASHVILLE — After beating Alabama 69-61 on Thursday to earn the dubious right to play No. 1 Kentucky, Florida talked the talk.
When asked how intimidating UK seemed as an opponent in Friday's Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals, Jon Horford said, "Not very.
"They're a great basketball team, obviously," he added. "No one has been able to beat them this year. But it's not something that intimidates us. We see it more as a challenge."
Not only did Kentucky become the first team from a major conference to go undefeated in a regular season, but UK also swept almost all the SEC's individual awards: Calipari as Coach of the Year, Willie Cauley-Stein as Defensive Player of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns as Freshman of the Year and Devin Booker as Sixth Man of the Year.
"We just have to stay focused on our principles," Horford said. "We can't let the hype of who they are and what they've done this year overpower any of the things we know we have to do as a basketball team."
A teammate, freshman Chris Chiozza, echoed the view that playing Kentucky — the No. 1 team throughout the regular season — was more of a deliciously unusual opportunity than a walk on a basketball gang plank.
"I don't see it as an intimidation factor," he said. "I see it as a motivation factor. To want to be that team that knocks them off and gives them that first loss."
Junior Michael Frazier III is an X-factor in the game as a three-point shooter, but still not fully recovered from a high ankle sprain. He said about Kentucky, "Yeah, they're pretty good. But they're definitely beatable. We know that. If we play our best basketball, we're capable of beating anybody in the country."
The Florida players were not woofing. Perhaps with pride stoked by a crisp performance against Alabama, the Gators seemed to want to remind reporters that two teams will be on the Bridgestone Arena court.
UK Coach John Calipari shrugged. He suggested that he will only see one team.
"My concern is my team," he said. "No one else.
"I just want my team to play at its best. If that's not good enough, let's go back and get ready for (NCAA Tournament) seeding."
Calipari all but gushed about his team's preparation going into its first SEC Tournament game. The Cats familiarized themselves with Bridgestone Arena in the morning shootaround, then practiced for about an hour later in the day at Belmont University.
"We had a great practice today," Calipari said. "And I think they're ready to play basketball. ... They had a great spirit about them."
In what sounded like a sizable exaggeration, Calipari said, "Any team in this (SEC) tournament is good enough to beat us. And the question is will we play at our best, which will make it hard for anybody to beat us. But they still can."
Calipari touched again on the theme that he'd like to see individual players and the team improve in the postseason.
For instance, Cauley-Stein spoke early in the week about getting himself "right" for tournament play. He has, Calipari said.
"Oh yeah," the UK coach said. "We feed off him. He's that one guy who can do stuff a normal player can't do. And he hasn't been doing it. He's been getting scored on. He's missing a lot of shots. They're physical with him, and he's not balanced coming back. But I think he'll be fine."
Sports psychologist and performance coach Bob Rotella spoke to players individually and the team as a unit recently, Calipari said. The UK coach said he told Rotella how much he (Calipari) wanted to get the regular season finished and then move on to March Madness. Rotella said that the players did not share that feeling. Apparently, they want to prolong the ecstasy.
If so, that would be following Calipari's advice to the players: Relish this perfect storm of a season and cherish this time together.
"I told them a long time ago, they're not going to realize what they just went through till it's all said and done," Calipari said.
If the UK players need a reminder, there's a sign near the entrance to the team's video room. It reads: Where's the time gone?"
After noting that sign, Calipari said, "It's flown by."