Kentucky Basketball: Hold Up, Wait a Minute


In the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the University of Kentucky won its Eighth National Title.  On the way to winning the championship, the team eliminated the University of Louisville Cardinals and the Hoosiers of Indiana University, two of its most bitter rivals, which made title No. 8 that much sweeter.  As a Kentucky fan, and alum, living in Louisville, I actually anticipated a relative peace and silence from the Card and Hoosier fan bases. After all, what could be more humbling than your rival ending your season on the way to the championship?  Apparently those two red-clad fan bases didn’t get the memo as they’ve both been talking non stop, taking cheap shot after cheap shot at the University of Kentucky, the men’s basketball team and head coach John Calipari.

Mar 23, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis (23) blocks a shot by Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) in the second half during the semifinals of the south region of the 2012 NCAA men

All three area schools entered the 2012-13 season ranked in the top 5 in most of the national polls.  Unfortunately, the Wildcats haven’t been able to live up to those lofty expectations. And you know who couldn’t be happier? The folks in Bloomington and half of the residents of the city Louisville.  With every Cats loss, the cheering from the Cards and Hoosiers has gotten louder and louder and louder.  If a member of Big Blue Nation responds to such jeers with a simple, “Hey, at least we won the title last year,” the response is usually something to the effect of, “Stop living in the past, we’re talking about this year.”

Let that sink in for a minute. And, if you’re not in the city of Louisville, where all three fan bases intersect, you may not believe it. But fans of teams that haven’t won a basketball championship since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, have the audacity, the wherewithal, and the temerity to accuse the Big Blue Faithful of living in the past.  Seriously.

Such talk defies belief.

And let me say this: The men’s basketball teams at the University of Louisville and Indiana University are great, tradition rich programs…. but, when it comes to the Wildcats, is there really a comparison? Of course not.

Mar 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Marquis Teague (25) shoots as Louisville Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng defends during the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA men

The University of Kentucky not only has the most wins in college basketball history and the highest winning percentage ever, but it is also to only team to appear in the top 10 of those categories in every decade since the 1930s.  What Coach Rupp created, and laid the foundation for, has been nurtured and cared for by some best coaching minds in college basketball history.  A total of five coaches (Rupp, Hall, Pitino, Smith, Calipari) have won titles in Lexington, while only three non-UK schools have won that many total titles (UCLA, IU, UNC).  Card fans will have you that Rick Pitino built UK into the juggernaut it is today. And, while it’s true that Pitino did lead the Cats back from the ashes of probation, don’t you wonder if it wasn’t the aura of Kentucky Basketball that helped Pitino just as much as he helped the university?

For a time, Hoosier nation was able to sit high and mighty and look down their noses at Kentucky for its running afoul of NCAA bylaws.  And then Kelvin Sampson happened.  Not only did IU hire a man with known NCAA compliance issues, he got caught in doing the same exact thing in Bloomington.  And, a little discussed fact in the Derby City is that the University of Louisville has been on probation more recently than UK.  While I’m no fan of the NCAA and its enforcement process, one has to wonder why Kentucky’s rivals think they’re not just as dirty as they proclaim the Cats to be.

My favorite proclamation from Cardinal fans is that, for some reason, Kentucky’s 1948, 49, 51 and 58 titles shouldn’t count because they were “a long time ago” and “the game was different way back then.”  The Cardinals last won the NCAA Tournament at the end of the 1985-86 season, otherwise known as the first year the NCAA used a shot clock and the last year before the NCAA installed the three point shot. Think the game is different now? Do those titles count?

Look, the Cats are having, for them, a down year. And our rivals are going to rejoice in it. The Hoosier and Cardinal faithful have to be excited when the Cats are down because, as history shows, the Cats won’t stay down long. As for the IU and UofL, let them cut down the nets for shared regular season titles (here) or make T-Shirts for being ranked #1 (here). In Lexington, we celebrate our One Shining Moments (here, here and here).