It is that time of year again, the most exciting month in sports (unless you’re one of those weirdos that only loves football), it is time for March Madness and the NCAA Tournament. Today, two things happened that are great as a citizen of the state of Kentucky:
1) The NCAA Tournament bracket was released.
2) Kentucky beat Arkansas to go to 34-0 on the path to history.
2a) That the team forgot to cut down the nets after the game.
It is a great year to be a University of Kentucky fan and honestly to be a fan of college basketball in general. If you’re a UK fan you get to experience the tournament and the pursuit of perfection as they try to be the first undefeated team to win the title since the ’76 Hoosiers who exist outside of that movie and contrary to popular belief still have a team. If you’re not a UK fan you will get to spend the month of March rooting against them because lets face it, I haven’t seen a lot of love for the Wildcats outside of people who were already fans.
This year there are a lot of great story lines throughout college basketball. In the Midwest Region, you have Kentucky, who for those who are more comic oriented as opposed to sports oriented is sort of like Thanos this year, in a region with Wichita State (the last team to go into the tournament undefeated who were beaten by Kentucky last year) and Kansas, who will be seeking a modicum of revenge after the drubbing that UK gave them earlier in the year which brought forth one of my favorite quotes of the year when Jayhawks coach Bill Self sat down for his post game presser and said, “I was hoping that was vodka,” after taking a drink from a bottle of water. In the East you have the scrappy bracket with a ton of teams who could make a run and the media darlings, Virginia, who at one point was also undefeated but I’ve sort of forgotten about that. In the West you have Wisconsin and the fightin’ Frank Kaminsky’s in a bracket that is clearly the most difficult road for any of the #1 seeds fighting to make it to the Final Four. In the South you have Duke who will almost certainly get beaten in the first round because that is basically how every year has gone for them lately.
The road to 40-0 will be a difficult mountain to climb for UK, even though they are already most of the way there at 34-0 but the problem is that the target is going to be on their backs during every game of the tournament. The good news is that the target has essentially been on their back all year and they’ve not backed down from any comers while participating in one of the most difficult non-conference schedules I can remember and participating in the SEC which had a lot of detractors earlier in the season but still managed to send 5 teams to the big dance. This is one of the greatest times to be a Kentucky basketball fan, sometimes I look around and feel like people are just taking this year for granted amongst all of the other great seasons that John Calipari has had since he got here but this is not normal. None of what Calipari has been able to do since he got here is normal but especially not an undefeated season going to the national title from a major conference. You’re talking about a guy who has managed to bring this team from the land of mediocrity under the previous coach to leading the team to one of the most unprecedented runs in college basketball history with two championship game appearances, three final fours, and two UCONN teams away from three national titles. Not to mention the fact that you can click on the stat leaders in the NBA and you’ve got two former Cal guys in the top 5 in scoring and one each in the top five for Rebounds, Assists, and the league leader in blocks.
Life is good in the bluegrass state and we are just a couple of weeks away from being able to prep Rupp Arena for a new banner and to watch Calipari be Calipari, traveling around the state showing off the trophy and hopefully getting all these damn people off his lawn.