Hopefully everyone across Big Blue Nation was on their best behavior this past year and Santa dropped off some nice gifts Monday night when Rudolph and his gang flew across the heavens above the Commonwealth from Pikeville to Paducah.
We all know our coaches at UK have lived right at the foot of the NCAA CROSS and were rewarded, I’m sure, in the proper manner by ole St. Nick.
Now we turn all of our attention to the annual Battle of the Bluegrass and what will be a Happy New Year come Jan. 1 for one team, and a let’s regroup and start a conference run for the other team. For the first time since both Coach Cal has been at UK and Coach Pitino has been at Louisville, it’s the red team from River City who is on top in the national rankings and looking down a tunnel that has a possible NCAA championship run in March.
What does that mean in the grand scheme and at the end of the day? In this particular game, usually nothing. You can throw the past years’ records out the window as well as this season’s stats, and any other factor you normally use to handicap how this game will play out.
Simply put, it’s the Battle of the Bluegrass week across our Commonwealth and the fans, regardless of the two coaches’ opinions, will make it special this year just like in the past.
This particular rivalry has taken on a new angle since the NCAA’s elite twosome of the Italian coaching fraternity has surfaced in our Commonwealth. Yes, it will always be the Cats vs. the Cards, but with two of the elite coaching personalities of the NCAA holding the reins to each program you must bring the Calipari vs. Pitino angle to the table as well. Both will deny that the game is any different than any other, yet Pitino has been on record on several occasions since his return to the Bluegrass saying his biggest mistake in his coaching career was leaving UK abruptly for a return to the NBA and one of its historic franchises in the Boston Celtics. Calipari has preached himself of the storied Kentucky Wildcats and what sitting in the seat that chairs all those responsibilities means to him.
But both try and play down the game annually. Go figure.
Trust me when I tell you that the hatred between these two athletic departments is at an all-time high across the board in all sports. To the point that there is a behind the scenes scenario presently going on of the Big Blue Good Ole Boy Network that hasn’t been used by the present A.D. in several years that is actually going in their own direction and pushing for an NBA franchise to surface at the Yum Center in Louisville because they think it will eventually be a dart of dagger proportions into the Louisville basketball program. Or at least Pitino and his people thinks this is ongoing.
Pitino made the following remark to a Louisville TV station over the Christmas holiday weekend in reference to this Saturday’s game: “Actually I don’t know anything about Kentucky except they supposedly have three NBA lottery picks.” He then stated that he had only seen maybe 10 minutes of one game so far that UK had played.
If you believe that statement, well, you know the rest of what I’m thinking.
These are the type remarks that each of these two coaches use occasionally to throw salt in the other’s wound, and to be honest it’s grown old with me because anyone who knows Pitino will tell you that the man has laid awake many hours recently trying to come up with a plan or just a gadget play to swing his side to victory and turn the rising tide in this rivalry from blue to red.
To be honest, Cal has had his fair share of digs at Louisville and Pitino in the past three and a half years as well, although he does seem a little more humble in his appreciation of this particular U of L team, but don’t expect any pity sake from The Ville.
Come Saturday we’ll all get to enjoy another chapter of this rivalry.
Will it be Louisville and Pitino putting a solid spanking on the Cats and Cal or will Kentucky continue its recent dominance in the series and put a set back and possible doubt in Louisville’s special NCAA run at a championship?
Wildcat Notes of Interest
# 1 - This will be the Wildcats’ only appearance in Louisville this season, so it will be interesting to see how resourceful BBN is in obtaining tickets.
# 2 - You can go online to www.coachcal.com and get a nice panoramic video view of the new Rupp Arena renovations for the UK players and coaching staff as well as recruiting room.
# 3 - In years past, the Saturday December games were a prime time to spot celebrities at Rupp Arena. Not this year, as only a sparse few have been spotted. You think schedule may be the reason?
# 4 - Tickets remain for the lone non-conference game against Eastern Michigan at Rupp Arena on Jan. 2. You can call 1 - 800 - 257 - 8000 and ask for the ticket office if interested.
# 5 - This UK team, according to most, has struggled to an 8-3 mark with several of the talented freshman having difficulty finishing at times at the rim, but according to most NBA draft lottery experts, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin all three are headed for lottery pick destination in next summer’s annual NBA draft.