ATLANTA — When a reporter remarked that Louisville gets to play Kentucky in the Final Four, Baylor Coach Scott Drew smiled.
"I don't think anybody wants to play Kentucky, right now," he said after UK beat his Bears 82-70 Sunday in the NCAA Tournament South Regional finals.
"They're probably more familiar with them," Drew said in reference to the regular-season meeting. "But Kentucky is the best team in college basketball, right now."
After Kentucky won at Florida in the regular-season finale, Gators Coach Billy Donovan suggested that a physical team that played smash-mouth basketball would be best equipped to beat UK.
Never miss a local story.
Drew was dubious any approach — physical or finesse, fast-paced or half-court slugfest — will bring victory over Kentucky in New Orleans.
"I think if Kentucky plays their best basketball, nobody's going to beat them," the Baylor coach said. "If Kentucky doesn't have a good night, anybody can beat anybody for one game."
1996 or 2012?
Anthony Epps, the point guard on UK's 1996 national championship team, attended the South Regional title game.
When asked if the '96 team would beat the current Cats, Epps smiled and said, "We would have won easy.
"We went 10, 11 deep. That makes a difference when you go six or seven deep."
Epps noted another advantage he perceived for the 1996 UK team: Big men Walter McCarty and Mark Pope could shoot from the perimeter.
"We'd most definitely get (Anthony) Davis away from the paint," he said.
Epps applauded Kentucky's victory over Baylor.
"Kentucky's back where they should always be," he said.
Epps also said he would not have divided loyalties in the UK-U of L game even though his college coach, Rick Pitino, leads the Cardinals.
"My loyalty is with Big Blue," he said. "I'm happy he (Pitino) got there. But I'm pulling for Kentucky to beat him, too."
Three UK players — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Doron Lamb — made the All-South Regional team.
Joining them were Quincy Acy of Baylor and Christian Watford of Indiana.
Kidd-Gilchrist was named Most Outstanding Player.
UK Coach John Calipari noted the difference it will make with a raised floor at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
"That makes it harder," he said. "So a team that doesn't shoot a whole lot of threes has an advantage."
Of course, Kentucky can shoot threes, as evidenced by ranking No. 41 nationally in accuracy from beyond the arc (37.7 percent) going into the Baylor game. UK made four of nine three-point shots against the Bears.
But UK averaged only 5.8 threes per game, which ranked 206th in the nation.
Free throw philosophy
After making 35 of 37 free throws in Friday's victory over Indiana, Kentucky made "only" 30 of 44 against Baylor.
Walk-on Sam Malone dissuaded a reporter from trying to divine any significance in the stats.
"Take the middle and get your percentage," he said.
UK missed three of its first four attempts against Baylor. That meant the Cats surpassed the total misses against Indiana in the first 8:23 of Sunday's game.
For what it's worth, Indiana (36-31) and Baylor (25-24) each made more field goals than Kentucky.
UK more than made up the difference at the foul line. In the two games here, the Cats made 65 of 81 free throws. Indiana and Baylor combined to make 29 of 36 free throws.
The father of the Baylor coach, former Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, and his wife, Janet, attended the game. Both are battling cancer.
The elder Drew said he wanted to share a story about Calipari. The former said he was attending a meeting in Valparaiso in November with acquaintances of Calipari.
"John called to wish me well," Homer Drew said. "He said his thoughts and prayers were with Janet and myself. That showed a lot of class."
The elder Drew said the many demands heaped upon the Kentucky coach made him appreciate Calipari's call even more.
"That meant a lot because of his schedule, to take the time to call," he said. "That's the wonderful thing about the coaching profession. When someone has difficulties, coaches band together."
After viewing a replay, referees called a flagrant foul on Acy with 18:34 left in the first half. The call, which came on Terrence Jones' attempt to score in transition, surprised the Baylor player, who also was called for a flagrant foul in Friday's game against Xavier.
"I actually made a play on the ball," he said. "I slapped the ball from his hands. I was very surprised. (Against Xavier), I may have fouled a little too much."
Acy dismissed the importance of the flagrant foul as any factor in the game. Malone suggested the play might have helped UK.
"A little bit," the walk-on said. "We did come out slow, and that did pick us up a little."
■ Kentucky's margin of victory was its biggest in a regional finals since a 72-59 victory over Utah in 1997.
■ North Carolina's loss to Kansas enabled UK to assume sole possession of the record for most NCAA Tournament victories. UK's total improved to 109, while UNC stayed at 108.
■ This will be UK's 15th Final Four appearance, tying Duke for third-most behind only North Carolina's 18 and UCLA's 17.