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Did We Already See the Best Possible March Madness Run?

2012MarchMadness

Photo via SneakerNews.com.

We already saw the best tournament we could ever hope to see, and it happened a year and a half ago.

Of course, that’s not to say that games, or even tournaments, can’t and won’t be exciting in spite of less-than-storybook matchups.  The ’98 Comeback Cats team is the best proof of that, even if you discount that they avenged a 6-year old loss to Duke.  Tubby, in his first year, led Kentucky to ridiculous come-from-behind wins that gave us all a collective heart attack and is probably one of the best Kentucky stories in decades.  But those wins, minus the one against Duke, came against Stanford and Utah.  Not exactly rife with drama.

So games might be better, or more exciting.  But, just looking at quality of opponents, could it get any better than 2012?

The first weekend of the tournament was less than competitive, with double-digit wins over pretty heavy underdogs.  However, being able to play against Western Kentucky was something that a lot of Kentucky natives, and to my knowledge, Hilltopper fans really enjoyed.  Nobody thought that Big Red could actually win that game, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.  And it was in Louisville, so everybody that wanted to go see it, could.  Follow that up with an Iowa State team that provided more entertainment than most Round-of-32 opponents do with Royce White, and there was a lot of fun to be had just in the first weekend.

Indiana in the Sweet 16 was about as perfect as it could get.  Looking to avenge their only regular season loss, the Wildcats played Indiana’s game, and did it better than the Hoosiers, looking almost flawless offensively.  Baylor was maybe the only underwhelming opponent of the tournament, considering it was a blowout in the Elite 8.  Good team, disappointing game (story-wise).

But all of that pales in comparison to the Final Four.  The Louisville game was the biggest individual basketball event to happen to the state of Kentucky.  The national attention on old men fighting over loyalties and the week-long break that allowed tensions to simmer to a boil absolutely wreaked havoc on the state, and it was all fantastic.  There are a lot of games that I like to watch in large groups, but that wasn’t one of them.  The consequences if we’d lost would have been awful.  But we didn’t, so we can look back on that week as one of the best times to ever be a Kentucky fan.  And finally, the championship game against Kansas pitted two of college basketball’s most prestigious programs against each other in a rematch of championship coaches from 2008.  It’s hard for casual college hoops fans to watch a championship game when Butler is involved (no offense), but that wasn’t a concern in 2012.  Kentucky and Kansas are two of maybe four teams in modern college basketball that everyone knows, and would want to watch.  That the game itself wasn’t very competitive (especially in the first half) was the only thing keeping it from legendary status.

The quality of opponent, their relationship to the Kentucky program, and the story lines involved in the THREE rematches made the last two weekends of the 2012 NCAA tournament about as rich as it can get for a Kentucky fan.  I’m not saying you won’t find better games; after winning by no less than 8 points through the whole tournament, it’s almost inevitable that there will be better games in the future.  But I just don’t see how the setup itself, the rivals involved, and the path that Kentucky navigated en route to a title could possibly be any better.  If it had been Duke in the Elite 8 instead of Baylor, then that’s about as perfect as you can get.  But who was disappointed to see them lose in the first round to Lehigh?  Anybody?  Of course not.

Individual games might, and hopefully will, be better, but I’m convinced that no tournament run could ever match the drama of 2012.  Please, discuss.

Article written by Corey Nichols

23 Comments for Did We Already See the Best Possible March Madness Run?



  1. Optimist
    6:16 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Only one way to find out!



  2. Question
    6:19 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Did anyone else find this almost impossible to read?



  3. Football Fan
    6:23 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    From this old guy’s perspective, the biggest individual basketball event to happen to the state of Kentucky was the 1983 “Dream Game.” Sure, it wasn’t the Final Four and the wrong team won, but, to paraphrase a headline in the Courier-Journal, “This Was War” between two fan bases that hated each other and hadn’t played in a long, long, long time.



  4. tom
    7:10 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    2. Yes, I did as well. And Nichols…never say never. You haven’t watched too many years of basketball. Listen to some people that have seen a few more than 7 seasons. I’m so tired of you kids talking like you have a lifetime of experiences.



  5. Wildcatsteeler
    7:14 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    I gotta agree. To beat Indiana and Louisville on the way to a Championship is almost impossible to top. The only thing that could make it any better is if Duke was in there as well. It’ll never line up like that again.



  6. Agreed
    7:14 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Agreed, 4.



  7. bung
    7:24 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    what…?



  8. bung
    7:29 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    seems like we beat Ind, Notre Dame, and Purdue in the same year….purty rad thang 2 do to one state…



  9. bung
    7:39 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    that was 79-80…all 3 were in the top ten…



  10. COREY SUCK DONKEY DICKS
    7:53 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Did we already know that you suck something fierce???



  11. ukjonny9
    7:58 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    I said the same thing a few months after the tourney and I still stand by it. That was the best tourney run and will be very hard to ever beat. Every team was BCS except for WKU. And WKU is about the only way that a 16 seed is going to be exciting for us. Our two biggest rivals. Revenge (sweet, sweet revenge) over IU. Our biggest game with our biggest rival. (If you want to stick with the dream game I can understand, but I disagree) Then it’s a family match-up for the title. Rupp’s beginning at Kansas. Both Cal & Self started at Kansas. And the two coaches face off again in the national title game with Kentucky winning!

    Could you have a better run. I suppose it’s possible. But it hasn’t happened before and a LOT would have to line up just to match it.



  12. Back to Back
    8:00 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Cards win again in 2014. Suck it losers.



  13. bung
    8:22 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    only reason we play looavul in basketball is cause of the whiney screamin fit they threw that we didn’t schedule them…now we do…one of the few mistakes hall/hagan made…



  14. Slick Willie
    8:43 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Why do they have a picture of Kansas winning the title?



  15. come on
    8:46 pm August 8, 2013 Permalink

    Agreed Cory, playing teams that know each other well by proximity and the mutual fan animosity can tax the team picked to win energy. The underdog has nothing to lose, so to beat IU, U of L and then Kansas back to back to back on the National stage is significant. I can’t recall any of those 3 schools doing anything similar.
    If Cal could only coach.



  16. Nitpicking
    12:19 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    15.

    Sorry to nitpick, but we didn’t beat those teams back to back to back. Baylor was in between Indiana and Louisville



  17. Chris
    12:38 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    Cool opinion. Although you’re obviously very young and extremely biased, cool opinion. In 1938, Duke beat Lehigh when some dude that once visited Duke was Lehigh’s coach. Therefore, Lehigh beating Duke was the greatest NCAA game of all time. I made that up and I’m obviously being sarcastic, but you could create a relationship, no matter how dumb, between any 2 college teams.



  18. Trip Nevada
    1:37 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    Corey,
    The 1998 UK vs Stanford game was overtime, a one point UK victory, 86 to 85. Plenty of drama.

    In the 1998 championship game vs. Utah we were down at the half, to Utah 41-31. At that time was the largest championship game comeback ever, maybe still is.

    Also Utah beat Arizona, the #1 seed, and defending national champs, in their regional final. Utah then beat North Carolina in the 1998 Final Four game, to reach the championship game.

    Plenty of drama everywhere,and excellent basketball to boot.

    Have you even watched these games ?
    Were you even born in 1998 ?
    Did you do any research at all ? Apparently not.

    A basketball historian you are not !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The 2012 team was great. So is the 1998 team.

    No need to poor mouth the 1998 team Championship Run.



  19. John
    7:41 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    You talk about a tournament that UK won, yet show a picture of Kansas winning the title. That’s just lazy.



  20. Rich
    9:03 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    Corey you really need to learn how to write



  21. BPM
    10:49 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    I agree, was the best run I have experienced. 98 was great but we are talking about the quality/name of the opponent – not necesarily the quality of games or performance. Beating UL and Indiana in the tournament is the ultimate. Imagine if Duke was there in the Elite 8 instead of Baylor like it was supposed to. Would have been epic to beat all those teams.



  22. Rick in TX
    11:58 am August 9, 2013 Permalink

    Every day I feel more fortunate to have been at the 2012 Final Four. It’s probably the only one I’ll ever see live and in person. I ‘won’ the NCAA lottery and had 2 tickets at face value. I found out I had them in August, well before the season. It was the best basketball season of my life.



  23. Imagine this...
    1:01 pm August 9, 2013 Permalink

    It’s not that hard to envision a better run. It would be unlikely that it would line up like this, but not entirely impossible considering the NCAA likes to set up story lines. Assuming UK is a 1-seed:
    Game 1: UK vs Robert Morris because revenge in the regular season just isn’t good enough.
    Game 2: UK vs WKU or other in state rival excluding UofL.
    Game 3: UK vs IU because how funny would it be to see IU lose in the sweet 16 again.
    Game 4: UK vs Duke to get to the final 4 on a last second shot that can replace the laettner shot shown every year.
    Game 5: UK vs UNC or Kansas because you gotta take out another blue blood with the 2nd or 3rd most wins all time.
    Game 6: UK vs UofL in the championship. Final 4 was great. Championship game would be even greater.