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Revisiting The Reasons This is Kentucky’s Year


At the beginning of the season, I was asked by Grantland.com to write an article about why Kentucky would win the National Championship. I approached it with the seriousness the topic deserves and on the eve of a chance to make that destiny complete, it is worth taking a look at that article again here, some of which is summarized below:

As Potter Stewart once said about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” And when it comes to Kentucky winning the national championship this season, I see it and I know it. The last time I was this certain of the Wildcats’ fate was in the fall of 1995. Going into that season with Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Ron Mercer, and a pre-Porcini’s Rick Pitino, I was sure UK was ready to fulfill its destiny and give me the first UK title of my lifetime. That 1996 Kentucky team had nine future NBA pros on its roster, and its demolition of opponents throughout the season was magical to watch. The Wildcats lost twice that season — once to UMass and once to Mississippi State, both of which were loaded enough to eventually make it to the Final Four. It was an exhilarating ride for a Blue-obsessed teenager, made even more special by the knowledge from the beginning of the inevitability of our final destination.

Sixteen years later, this Kentucky team is headed for a similar date with destiny. Just as the 1996 group had a coach considered to be among the game’s best but without the national championship to confirm it, the 2011-12 version has John Calipari desperately yearning to finally have his face close the “One Shining Moment” montage. The roster is once again loaded with talent, as Calipari has stacked the deck with seven future pros and five potential NBA lottery picks. Early performances have showcased a team whose length and athleticism cannot be matched by any team outside of Chapel Hill. This is the year Kentucky hangs banner no. 8.

After breaking down why Calipari deserves it and how this would validate the Kentucky “recruit the top talent” mentality, I then got to the most important reason, which is that Kentucky fans deserve this title:

In Kentucky, we care more about basketball than you do. In fact, we care more about basketball than you probably care about anything. No program’s fans in America are more committed, passionate, or crazy than those of the Big Blue Nation. In college basketball, only three programs consistently matter: North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky. The two Triangle schools have the unfortunate burden of being located where the citizenry has the most college degrees per capita in the nation. We in Kentucky don’t have that distraction. North Carolina’s wine-and-cheese crowd (as Sam Cassell so aptly termed them) has the Panthers, the Hurricanes, NASCAR, and the best college town in America to divert their attention, while Duke’s nerdy, elitist-chic student body is too focused on entering our nation’s top tax bracket to truly replicate our obsession with one college basketball team. I don’t care what ESPN, its announcers, or HBO documentarians try to tell you … we care more than they do, and it isn’t even close.

I went to grad school at Duke and lived in Chapel Hill, expecting that my neighbors would share my passion for the greatest sport in the land. I was wrong. North Carolina and Duke fans care in the moment, but they don’t live and breathe basketball 24/7, 365 days a year like we do. Triangle fans don’t camp out for three days simply to attend a glorified practice (Krzyzewskiville is extremely overrated), don’t wear jean shorts throughout basketball season in honor of a onetime benchwarmer’s nickname, and don’t watch Cougar Town simply because one of the stars is a fellow fan. We don’t just like our team, we obsess over it constantly. Ask any college basketball writer what happens when the masses go on alert after a critical column or the occurrence of even a small factual error in a piece on the Cats. In the new-age world of Twitter, with our ability to communicate with journalists, antagonizing the Big Blue Nation is not for the faint of heart, and to do so can put one in great nerd-fight peril.

We do this because Kentucky basketball simply means more to us. We have no professional team in our state. The primary reason you even know we exist is because of one horse race and fried chicken. The Wildcats are what we rely on not only for entertainment, but also for our state’s collective self-esteem. So if there is any karma or justice in the world, it is our turn to win. Our last national championship was in 1998. Since our last shining moment, Duke and North Carolina each have found a way to win two titles of their own. Kansas, Syracuse, and Michigan State each have added a ring, Johnny-come-lately UConn has had the audacity to somehow finagle three trophies, and even Florida, which barely knows it even has a basketball team, has won two.

Those who care most should be rewarded, and we are long overdue. This is the year the waiting ends. Kentucky wins no. 8. I just know it.

Article written by Matt Jones

64 responses to “Revisiting The Reasons This is Kentucky’s Year”

  1. Spellcheck

    Matt, you’re ability as a prognosticator has nothing on Thayer Evans.

  2. catfan68

    LET’S BEAT KANSAS AND CELEBRATE #8

  3. msnthrop

    Actually shouldn’t 95-96 be counted as a one lose season….?

  4. GoCats2

    I still have this article hanging in my cubicle from the beginning of the season. Lets make this happen. 8pril is finally here. Go Cats.

  5. msnthrop

    loss…duh

  6. Reeltalk

    1st weekend of the tournament: Game 1 play good beat an instate ‘rival’ then curb stomp a Big 12 team in the 2nd game.

    2nd weekend of the tournament: Game 1 play good beat a rival then curb stomp a Big 12 team in the 2nd game.

    3rd weekend of the tournament: Game 1 play good beat an instate rival then curb stomp a Big 12 team in the 2nd game.

  7. Typical U of L fan

    I guess I’m rooting for UK now.

  8. Mr. Appraiser

    Very nice Matthew

  9. Kenny H

    #6 Very nice. I see a pattern.

  10. ZombieLibrarian

    Called it!

    Too soon?

  11. BravoBigBlue

    I could not agree more.

  12. Brow Down when I come to your town

    I feel it Jones. I have felt it as soon as i saw how focused this team is in interviews during this final four. They have not met their goal yet. They will hang that banner. They are talented, determined, and focused. Tomorrow we celebrate (hopefully responsibly) in the streets of Lexington.

  13. SexnNursinHomes

    Jones I must say that may be the most m***** f***** bad ass piece I have ever read. I wanna eat Kansas’s skin like meat off a bone. #8 blood running off them. slurping it up like leeches. I’ll eat ted bundy

    #8 #8 #8 #8 #8

  14. Roland

    Let’s not forget that Coach Cal said many times B4 the season that this team has a chance to be something Special. This season has already exceeded that and late Monday nite or early Tuesday morn they will be GR8AT.

  15. GoCats2

    #13 one of the most normal things you have ever said. 8pril is finally here. Go Cats.

  16. tim gardner

    great piece matt, just wanted to share we had the same kind of feelings in 1978, we had gone 20 yrs without a trophy, and joe B had assembled the most talent we had seen at Kentucky in yrs, we just knew theywould get it done and win #5, i got to see that team play twice,and when the pundits where still debating who would win the title, i saw them beat UNLV in the last regular season game,after being up 1 at the half , won by 19, the whole country got a big message
    lets get #8 tomorrow

  17. Doc

    I know we will win tomorrow, it is just our time and cal’s destiny. Having a great time in nola and got to meet dick vitale at lunch, take pictures etc. He is a good guy.

  18. jon freeman

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  19. jon freeman

    help my fingers are glued together

  20. Eric K

    #7 go cheer for your own team, BBN doesn’t need you!! GO CATS!!

  21. SexnNursinHomes

    15- here’s a thought. how good is it going to feel to catch ucla in titles before we die of some disease that will prolly make our families sad? Even if 2012 kills us all. We are going to die winners. But if 2012 doesn’t kill us, then we live, catch up to ucla and die winners regardless. basically I’m saying we will win before we die. Pretty good feeling. Oh, Kansass can suck our balls!!!

  22. Paducahfan

    Did jon Freeman go to St Francis of Assisi grade school?

  23. crazycatfan

    AGREE!!!! It’s our year!!!

  24. Blue Headed Cat Fan

    Great article, Matt and I have to agree. I just knew this was our year after about the second game. We have gone to every SEC out of town game and they have just appeared undaunted about any task, any crowd, and bad referees. It has been great. I am ready for One Shining Moment one more time!

  25. SeaBlue

    8 tomorrow
    9 in 366 days
    Who is Matt Jones?

  26. Sully

    I hope Matt is correct. What follows below will never happen–-for one thing, we may well not win tomorrow night (though I believe we will). But for several weeks, I have dreamed of UK winning and, while Jim Nantz or whoever interviews players on national TV, someone like Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Darius Miller takes the mike and says something like the following:

    “I want to say something. All of us can read, and all of us see what is said about our coach, and all of us hear what is said about him. To the Bob Knights and Rick Telanders and all those like them, we, all of us players, say you are unfair, and you are wrong. Coach Cal is a great coach, and a greater man. You don’t know him, haven’t bothered to get to know him, and you don’t truly know anything about him. And, you don’t know us. It’s time you either learned the truth about Coach and recognize him fairly, or simply keep your mouths shut. Because we love this man, and what he has done for us.”

    Won’t happen; too much to ask of any kid. But I would purely love to see it.

  27. SexnNursinHomes

    Appreciate all the coverage you do Jones. Thanks for everything. You truly allow us Cat fans to express our fun here!! Anybody gives you hell, pee on them. Thanks again. You make UK sports worth getting up in the morning depsite if a Cat fan is high on crack and drinking like Henry Earle

  28. SeaBlue

    what can Kansas do??
    Hack and shove like Pitino?
    Really, what underhanded stunt could they pull?
    Obviously fouling out Davis would be job 1.
    Maybe trashing Jones would be easier and
    less obvious.

  29. TJ

    Matt, thank you for all of the outstanding articles all year long. I’m in NOLA and I cannot wait to be at the game to tomorrow to see UK win our 8th championship. Have a great evening everyone and GO BIG BLUE!!!

  30. UK&KSR fan

    Matt if you can fit all that on a shirt I’ll buy 10.. Go Cats

  31. SeaBlue

    No one is more treacherous than Pitino.
    Unless it is Bill from Kansas.
    What will he try?
    That is the burning question.
    I am concerned about their center. We need to run like
    hillbillies!!!!

  32. bigblue

    Because Kentucky deserves it well I think every team can say that. I hate to say this it’s luck alot of the time granted we have the most assemnled talent and have avoided what alot of other teams have injuries to KEY players.

  33. SeaBlue

    MGK will rip tomorrow!!!!!!!
    Fresh legs!
    Unless Larry Vaught disagrees: he thought the whole team looked tired last night

  34. kycatman

    My my my, how fast the season has come and gone. My wife & I attended Big Blue Madness and it seems that great event was only yesterday. Matt Jones, you are absolutely GREAT for our University of Kentucky Wildcats. This is a great article and you should write a book on the whole season. I know Mr. Wildcat was looking on from above with a very big smile on his face. It’s hard to believe Mr. Bill has been gone 4 years. Keep up the good work Matt and great things will happen to you!!!! GO CATS!!!!!!!! GO CAL!!!!!!!! Bring on Home!!!!!!!!

  35. Just wondering

    I love the post.One more thing we think we can win every year.Since Cal took this job it has really became true.That is what makes our fan base the hardest to satisfy in all of sports.We think we should compete for the NC every year.Cal has grasp that and added to it.To the rest of the country yes it’s good to be in the BBN.
    #6 I hadn’t noticed the pattern,but your spot on.

  36. BigCat

    Just in…..Mayor Greg Fischer is still cruising west broadway with his flat bill cap on after loserville’s loss!!

  37. bigblueyoda

    MATT JONES!!!! This is why we love u!!!

  38. Just wondering

    #32 Luck has nothing to due with it.This team has sacrificed for each other.Work hard and responded wonderfully to coaching.No we haven’t had injury but do you really think the others who have could beat us.UK was simply the best TEAM this year.UNC and UCONN had similar talent but because of the lack of buying into team.No way they beat this team even with out injury.UNC got beat by 30 before injury really wasn’t impressive in other games.

  39. SeaBlue
  40. parapooper

    If we win tomorrow I am going to be so happy that I will smoke some tie stick, snort some agent orange, play with my GI Joe doll and go burn a cross. Oh wait that was Friday night……… Never mind

  41. BigBlue

    39) Majerus is bitter. His idea is like Pitino’s: push, shove, hack

  42. lilWildcat

    This team has been a blessing to Big Blue Nation! They have unselfishly put their individual goals aside to accomplish something very special, win a national championship. They are one family, one heart, one goal…they are UK and all UK is about…they will give all they have to achieve their ultimate goal…bring #8 home to the University of Kentucky! Thanks guys for the ride…You are awesome! #WeAreUK

  43. Just wondering

    Is it just me or has ESPN’s coverage on the NC game sucked.I thought coverage would be on all day.All I’ve seen was just a short piece on sports center.Seemed like the coverage for football was on constantly for a month.All he’ll guess I’m just a whining UK fan.

  44. Mike in Paducah

    Great post Matt! I agree, I felt it about this time last year when I saw a Youtube of this group that they had done at either the McDonalds Classic or Jordan Brand Classic (I don’t remember which)where they were talking about all they wanted was to win an NCAA title. I told all the doubters I work with at that time that this would be the year. You could just tell even then that this is a special group of kids!!

  45. Just wondering

    #42 They are a true TEAM in every way.Which in this day and time of I got to get mine before you get yours.Is nothing short of amazing.

  46. Sydney

    This is great! Also, reading this helped solidify the fact that I am going to ask my boss for Tuesday off so I can go to Lexington to watch the game with my friends and the rest of the Big Blue Nation!

  47. Richard

    6. IU is in the Big 10.

  48. srini

    #6 awesome trend..beat a rival and take down big12 team

  49. Go c8s

    last nights games get highest final four ratings since 2005
    erbody watches the cats
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2012/04/cbs-ncaa-final-four-tv-ratings/1#.T3kU69l-zSh

  50. Big O

    We shall all know in about 24 hours. Regardless, this is a special group of young men. They are all about team and that is a rare trait in today’s game. Bring the big trophy to KY!

  51. BigBlue
  52. GO CATS

    47, but BAYLOR is!… reading comprehension….try again

  53. Joe Dennison

    Matt speaks the truth.

  54. 00BBN00

    Well TBH, it’s about this time every year that I start telling everyone that will listen that UK will win the next title. Don’t all of you?

  55. 00BBN00

    47. right you are!

  56. bmt22033

    “The two Triangle schools have the unfortunate burden of being located where the citizenry has the most college degrees per capita in the nation”

    I’m not sure where you got your info from (or if you were even being serious) but it’s wrong. Washington, DC, followed up LOTS of places other than the triangle area of NC have a higher number of college degrees per capita. Just sayin’. ;-)

  57. Tampa Satchel

    Well said and spot on, though it makes us sound a bit desperate.

  58. Bulldawg

    @57 newsflash…WE ARE DESPARATE!!!! Let’s go CeightS!!! Gotta have it…like a rabbit!!!

  59. 8

    56. No one cares about your nerd fact checking ability.

  60. Stan

    WOW. WHAT A YEAR! I pray we win the title, but just sit back and reflect on the year we have had. #1-Beat Louisville TWICE! #2-Player of the year Anthony Davis.#3 Didn’t lose a home game again.#4, Won more games that any season in history……. Yes, I would be heart broken if we lose tonight, but WOW,WHAT A YEAR!!!! THANKS TO THE PLAYERS AND COACHES WHO MADE IT HAPPEN, AND TO THE BEST FANS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, OUR BIG BLUE NATION!!!!!

  61. Al's IndiCats

    43, had it been a Duke or UNC, there would’ve an all day clips on the World Wide leader how Rat Face or Ol’ Boy Roy done a miraculous job with their prospective teams in getting them there in the Championship game. But who cares? We are who we are and that’s something they’ll have to deal with. Meanwhile, I had a friend call me from San Diego congratulating me on us beating UL, but he did say something that kinda disturbed me. I guess they were showing police in riot gear and all the furnature being burned and he said they even showed a car being flipped over. C’mon guys…..We’re UK, this kinda shit goes on in Detroit and L.A. and in Chapel Hill they pay to have someone do it for them, NOT in Lexington. We’re better than that. Party like it’s never been done before, scream, dance, cry if you wish, but we’re better than that….#pointblankperoid. Cats by 7…..GO CATS!!!!!!!!

  62. Kenny

    Had a 2 day on-going discussion at work about “Who has most passionate fan base” NC guys and Spartan guys wanted to argue…until I asked them when the last time their team had a TV timeout…at a practice!

  63. Chris

    I am proud to admit that I was in tears after reading this article. I want a championship so bad that I would tear up over the notion of not winning tonight. My wife is a UK fan, but not as crazy as I. I love her, but she says it’s just a game. Those of us that can remember sitting next to our fathers at a young age and being steeped in UK lore know it’s not just a game, it’s a way of life. We have stuck it out through Eddie Sutton and the aftermath, Billy G and the misery, trader Rick. I remember watching Ronnie Lyons run all over the court and just marveling as a kid at his speed. I remember 1978. I remember the 2nd half of the Georgetown game in the tournament in the 80’s, it was gut wrenching. I still dislike Laetner with a passion and Duke. It is truly our turn. Go Big Blue!!!!!

  64. BNolan

    actually I would put the fans at Kansas as the 2nd most committed fans justh behind us Wildcat fans! They are not only a knowledgable fan base. They are very passionate. We are still number one; but, I put them far ahead of Duke or UNC.