United We Stand, Divided We Ball.
Ain’t it the truth.
Anyhow, in this week’s print edition, on stands all around our burg, and online (links provided just below), Bill Doolittle weighs in on the upcoming tilt in his usual pithy manner, and I take a contrarian view of the station of this UK vs. U of L game, compared to previous NCAA encounters.
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I stand my ground on the position I take in my column linked above.
This game is exciting. The city and state are exhilarated to almost apoplectic levels. Sales of school color garb is off the charts. Work efficiency is decreasing by the day. Arguments are getting more heated. All true.
But this is not the biggest sporting event in the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Frankly, one guy’s opinion, it doesn’t come close to the importance and cultural impact of the Dream Game in ’83. These schools now play every year. They’ve already played this year.
It is fun. Perhaps more so for Louisville followers, who never expected to still be playing the last weekend of the season. It is certainly vexing for UK fans, and probably their coach, who, let’s face it, has a thing about the guy on the U of L bench.
In the context of this season, it’s important. The winner plays for the national crown. The loser coulda woulda shoulda.
But, but, but . . . the 1983 game changed the whole hoops culture of the state. This game only confirms what is now a given, thanks to that Knoxville battle. That two heated rivals are both at the upper echelon of the sport. That Kentucky is the epicenter of college basketball. That we care like nowhere else. (Tobacco Road, sit down and shut your trap.)
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I’m still shaking my head that the Cardinals have arrived at this juncture.
Weeks ago, the Cards were pronounced officially dead.
During Louisville’s season ending tailspin — Remember, they lost 4 of 6? — I ran into Dr. George Nichols at the grocery store. An inveterate long time U of L fan, George was also the state’s forensic pathologist until he retired.
As we approached each other, he was simply shaking his head. He didn’t have to identify the gesture. We then spent a good while, lamenting the state of our favorite team. You know the riff. You’ve read it here. It doesn’t need to be repeated.
Anyhow, during the conversation, Doc gave the Cards their clinical last rites. We parted with a meek feeling of wait til next year.
Which proves once again that medicine isn’t an exact science.
The Louisville Cardinals’ heart was obviously much stronger than it appeared from examination. Even an expert missed the diagnosis.
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Lost in the hubbub around here is that the other semiifinal between Kansas and Ohio State is a great match up.
Interesting, the NCAA obviously considered that the headliner when setting the starting times, setting U of L vs. UK as the opening game.
Yet, the nation’s press is talking a whole lot more about UK, U of L, John Calipari and Rick Pitino.
Anyhow, I’m glad. My buddy Ben and I have always had a theory that it’s better to play the first game. Besides, you don’t have to wait as long.
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There have been several marvelous articles about Louisville’s FabMeloulous center, Gorgui Dieng. His is a great story.
My favorite nugget reflects what a hoops naif he was last season. So unfamiliar was he with the format of the NCAA tournament, he didn’t understand why Louisville’s season ended after the loss to Morehead.
Kind of sweet, actually.
He knows now, and has done his best to keep this campaign alive.
The only U of L player I can remember who visibly and palpably kept improving as much game by game as Dieng was Pervis Ellison. Who, if your recall, knew how to make an impact when he got to the Final Four.
– Seedy K