Of all of the story lines that surround Kentucky's game at Mississippi State — and there are plenty — the most important is just how much is on the line.
When No. 13 Kentucky faces the Bulldogs on Sunday, it has a chance to make history and win the program's first Southeastern Conference title in 30 years.
A win will guarantee the Cats a No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament next week in Nashville.
UK Coach Matthew Mitchell got a little emotional as he described growing up in the South (in not-so-far-away Louisville, Miss.) and watching previous SEC champions.
"It would be hard for me to think of the words to say what it would mean," he said of an outright crown. "I really hope our players understand what a great opportunity they have. I believe they do. It would mean a tremendous amount to this program and it would be a fantastic reward for incredible work they've put in."
Kentucky (23-5, 12-3) dominated MSU 88-40 in early January, the largest margin in an SEC win in school history. The Cats hit a record 14 three-pointers, so they should be confident.
But some other story lines could definitely make this an interesting game.
Will Kentucky find a way to win on the road again? Its previous three road games — at Louisiana State, Tennessee and Alabama — all ended in defeat.
"They understand what's on the line," Mitchell said Friday. "I think we have their attention."
The Bulldogs will have some extra motivation of their own.
It will be Senior Day for State's six seniors, including center Catina Bett, who played for two seasons at UK before transferring to State.
It will be the final game at Humphrey Coliseum for Bulldogs Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis as well. The former UK coach, who has spent the past 17 seasons at MSU, announced last week she is stepping down at the end of the season.
"It's their seniors' last shot to play in Humphrey Coliseum and Coach (Sharon) Fanning-Otis has meant so much to that program," Mitchell said. "I would have to believe they will be motivated to play for her."
Fanning-Otis will move into an athletics department fund-raising position at MSU when the season ends. She went 134-97 in eight seasons with the Cats, and also served as a mentor for Mitchell, who is 26 wins away from passing her on the all-time wins list at Kentucky.
On Friday, Mitchell recalled being a new high school coach who would drive two hours to Starkville to meet up with Fanning-Otis and her assistant coaches to learn the trade.
"She would have her entire staff and we would go into a gym at 7 at night, and stay in there until midnight," Mitchell said. "I can now think those assistant coaches are kind of ticked off that we are spending that much time in there."
Mitchell said he wasn't coaching any players Fanning had an interest in recruiting at the time. She was just happy to be teaching him the game she loved.
"At the time, I didn't know how special that was," he said. "It was just an incredible gift of her knowledge and her time. ... It indicates what kind of person she is."
The coach still uses many things he learned from Fanning-Otis on the practice court at Kentucky.
"She really helped me how to teach shooting footwork," he said. "I mean we are doing footwork drills and shooting that I learned absolutely from her."
But this is no time to think about old friendships or road worries or the SEC Tournament, Mitchell cautioned.
He has reminded his players of this many times since Thursday night, when their win over South Carolina and Arkansas' overtime win at Tennessee guaranteed UK at least a share of the SEC title.
"We have to stay focused on what we need to do," he said. "We can't get distracted by anything else going on but what needs to happen on the court."