The most famous victory came in 1998, of course, when the Wildcats overcame a 41-31 deficit to beat the Utes in the NCAA Championship game.
But Ray Giacoletti was not with Utah then. Neither were any of the players on the team today. So does any of this history intimidate Utah? "I don't think so. I don't know anything about all of it myself," Giacoletti said, "Kentucky is just another game on the schedule. I don't think our players are thinking about that."
Certainly, the Utah media think Kentucky is beatable. Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake City Tribune said in his column Monday that, "The Wildcats look beatable. In fact, the Utes might be meeting the least imposing Kentucky group in their history of tournament meetings."
Another Utah publication noted that Giacoletti did not seem the least bit nervous about playing Kentucky.
Point guard Marc Jackson was with the team when Kentucky last played Utah, a 74-54 Wildcat win in the NCAA Midwest Regional Second Round game. Jackson played well, scoring 19 points on 5-7 shooting and 8-8 from the free throw line, "They are a program rich in tradition," Jackson said, "I am really looking forward to playing them again."
Center Andrew Bogut declined to comment on playing Kentucky after beating the Sooners, but Salt Lake sportswriter Michael Lewis had this to say of the Cats, "They're nothing like the dominating 1996 team that beat the Utes by 31 points in the Sweet 16 with a lineup featuring Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Antoine Walker and six others who later played in the NBA."
Following the Sooner win, Giacoletti said he did not even know who the opponent was that Utah would play. Even Monday, the first year Utah coach was playing it pretty cool, "I wasn't around the previous Kentucky teams," Giacoletti said, "so I don't know much about them. We're really just starting to kind of get a feel here, because I have not watched them play at all this year."
Giacoletti will get a real close look this Friday.