ARLINGTON, TX --- Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress remember Robert Morris storming the court in the first round of last year's NIT. They remember losing their first SEC Tournament game a year ago to Vanderbilt, effectively eliminating any hope of the NCAA Tournament.
That's what makes this NCAA Tournament run to the national championship game against Connecticut Monday all the more special for them.
"I'm like, ‘Look. I feel incomplete. There's something in my heart that's incomplete. I can't just leave off that, with that kind of taste in my mouth. I have a goal to get to the NCAA championship game,'" Cauley-Stein said he remembered telling reporters after the Robert Morris loss.
"It's surreal that it actually happened. People just really say that. I was honestly just really saying that. I didn't really know," Cauley-Stein said laughingly after Kentucky's win over Wisconsin Saturday. "I couldn't tell the future, but I was honestly just saying that just to sound good in the media, you know what I'm saying? Now, it's happening. It's crazy. It really happened."
UK's 2014 turnaround is validation for these two sophomores, who could have easily entered the NBA Draft like their teammate Archie Goodwin did after last season.
"Yeah, it's the main reason I came back, to win a national title, to compete for a national title," Poythress said after the win over Wisconsin Saturday. "I feel like I made the right choice."
Poythress was so good again late in Kentucky's Final Four win over the Badgers, with a circus tip-in and monster two-hand slam, it prompted John Calipari to give him a kiss going into a timeout.
"I wouldn't say it was a good feeling," Poythress joked about the kiss. "Whenever you can help your team out there, it's always good."
Cauley-Stein said he highly doubts he'll be able to play against UConn Monday for the championship with his ankle injury, but Poythress will be out there with the freshmen, as Kentucky plays for a 9th national championship.