It's always sweet to beat a hated rival, like UK, in football or basketball, but to beat them in football AND basketball in the same year and on the road is especially rewarding. What makes it even more enjoyable, of course, is the incredible arrogance, if not downright stupidity, of some UK fans that I come across in my daily life.
Yes, we all know them. We work with them, or might even be related to some of them.
In general, the ones I know are very decent people, except when college sports are the subject. Then, they turn into blithering idiots without any reasoning ability or logic to be found. Their teams never lose. They always just get screwed by the officials and when they are caught cheating (as they have been on so many occasions, I've stopped keeping count), they regret that they were caught, not that they were actually cheating. And, of course, "everyone else is cheating too."
I happened to be in the heart of enemy territory for this past Saturday's game won by Louisville, 65-56. Yet again, I heard the same tired excuses. The refs let Louisville slap, yet UK apparently never slaps. Louisville got lucky when unexpected players, like Otis George, had a good game, as if Cliff Hawkins is known for his three point shooting. Kentucky only plays for March anyways (apparently they forgot this one when they faced Marquette last year). The list of excuses goes on and on.
The most telling example of the arrogance and stupidity, though, are the comments made by their players and sportswriters/fans BEFORE the game is even played. The Lexington Herald-Leader headline on Saturday screamed "It's Payback Time" not to mention that UK's information sheet passed out to the media prior to the game had their record as 8-0, despite the fact that they were 7-0 going into the game against Louisville.
Pretty presumptuous? Pretty Arrogant? You bet.
Awfully stupid? Absolutely.
And it was definitely "Payback Time" for the Louisville Cardinals. The teams was able to payback all of those small-minded blue-bellies for the classless displays made towards Coach Pitino two years ago, as well as paying back UK's players for their continued inability to give an opponent credit when they beat you. Maybe next time, their players will think about what they say to the media or how they act with unmerited arrogance. Perhaps next time, all of those UK homers writing for the Lexington Herald and the Courier Journal will actually think objectively about this rivalry game instead of looking through blue-colored glasses. Nah, probably not.
Regardless, in the end, our UK brethren will be eating crow for quite some time to come.
Finally, can you say OVERRATED? The recent outcomes of games have shown that looking at polls at this point in the season can be misleading and downright dangerous. Take Florida for example. They are a solid team that could make the Final Four, but have they really proven themselves to be the best team in the country at this point in the season? Certainly not, which is why in my opinion, there shouldn't even be a poll until the second week in January, which gives teams a chance to begin conference play and gives the pollsters a chance to see more teams play, instead of simply voting on the reputation of teams and conferences.
Quick Notes from wins over Florida, VMI and UK:
- Despite not having great games, Nouah Diakite's presence makes a huge difference on this team. To be sure, he didn't play well against UK and looked like a deer in headlights playing on the road in a tough atmosphere. However, simply having him there as an option allowed Coach Pitino to play Otis George and Dartez together early and often. That is a luxury that many have been waiting for since the beginning of the season.
- Garcia and Dean must have ice-water running through their veins. Yes, neither one had a great game as UK did a nice job of keying in on them. However, when the game was on the line and the crowd was getting back into it, they both nailed huge three pointers to extend the lead and take the air out of the place. Big-time players make big-time plays, and both of these guys showed why they are big-time players.
- Team depth will come in handy in March when many teams lose their legs or get hit with playing two games in three days. That was never more evident in the last few games as Pitino has been comfortable playing 10 players and sometimes even 11 or 12 depending on the situation.
- It was great to see Larry OBannon getting to celebrate a win at Rupp. OBannon played on the Male High team that advanced to the Sweet 16 Finals in 2001 only to lose in a tightly fought ballgame. Having a Louisville boy on the team celebrating a win in Rupp just made it all the more satisfying.
Freedom Hall is one of the greatest places on the planet to watch a basketball game.