Twenty-four years ago, UNLV arrived in Indianapolis for a coronation disguised as a Final Four.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Twenty-four years ago, UNLV arrived in Indianapolis for a coronation disguised as a Final Four.

The Runnin’ Rebels were a college basketball juggernaut. They hadn’t lost all season. In fact, they hadn’t lost for 45 straight games, a streak that started with a run in the previous season to a national championship.

UNLV, led by Jerry Tarkanian, the towel-chewing defensive genius, arrived in Indianapolis needing two wins to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976.

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This week, Kentucky arrived in Indianapolis for a coronation disguised as a Final Four.

The Wildcats are a college basketball juggernaut. They haven’t lost all season.

Kentucky, led by John Calipari, a coach who has turned recruiting into an art form, arrived in Indianapolis needing two wins to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976.

The Wildcats face Wisconsin on Saturday in the national semifinals. That was the round in which UNLV’s undefeated dreams were dashed by Duke, a team the Runnin’ Rebels had beaten by 30 points in the championship game a year earlier. Duke, which plays Michigan State on Saturday, could get another chance to ruin a perfect run at the title, but that is looking way down a three-day road.

“I’ll never have a group of players like this again,” Tarkanian, who died on Feb. 11, said the night of the 79-77 loss to Duke, a result that stunned the sports world. “You only get a team like this once in your career. This was a very special group of kids. I’m just sick. It meant so much to these kids. I’m just hurting inside.”

When the game ended, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had his own problem. He had to get his team to settle down after the upset because the Blue Devils still had a game Monday night for the national championship.

“I thought all week we had a chance but I wasn’t going to be Joe Namath and say anything like that,” Krzyzewski said 24 years ago. “I thought if we could fight for 40 minutes we could win, not knowing if the kids could handle it. UNLV plays with such ease and we play with so much emotion.”

Kentucky’s roster is so deep scuba gear is recommended. It’s anybody’s guess how many of them will be first-round NBA draft picks.

In the Midwest Regional semifinal, Kentucky beat West Virginia 78-39.

“They were what I thought they were,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “That’s the best defensive team I think that I’ve ever coached against. And when they’re making shots, there’s nobody going to beat them.”