Thursday’s game against South Carolina ushers in a first for this season: the chance to avenge a loss. Vengeance in sports and in life creates a heightened sense of drama. Everyone longs to face something in their lives that defeated them and have a second chance at making things right. Hey, it’s the sole reason class reunions still exist.
So, as we get ready to add another great redemption story to the hallowed halls of Kentucky basketball, I thought I’d offer my 5 sweetest revenge storylines:
5. Louisville 2001-No, it wasn’t one of Rick’s better Louisville squads and if anything UL has spent most of their history trying to get revenge on us for stealing any hint of glory they may ever have instead of vice versa. But the traitor’s return to Lexington saw a 20-point demoralizing loss to his former team and the entire BBN relishing in avenging Rick’s blatant act of betrayal.
4. UAB 2006- Not only did the tournament victory exact revenge on the ghosts of demons 2004 when we were upset by the Blazers but also the 1981 second-round tournament loss. And of course KSR favorite Bobby Perry had one of his best career games, scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half. Apparently Bobby was liking the sweet smell of revenge.
3. The entire 2010 SEC season- Every game feels like revenge this year in a league that had forgotten who its master was. After Thursday’s throttling of the Gamecocks, all the losses from last year will have been avenged and the rest of the SEC can go back to clamoring for second best.
2. UMass 1996-Of course this one is touchy for obvious reasons, but there is something supremely satisfying about avenging your first loss of the regular season in the final four. The teams had been #1 and #2 for most of the season and it seemed inevitable that they would clash again in the tournament. Had it happened today, the brackets would probably have been tweaked at the final four, allowing for a final game showdown. Alas we met Camby and Cal in the game before the final, making Monday night’s Syracuse matchup almost an afterthought. Like the US defeating Finland to win the gold in Lake Placid, everyone knows that the championship was really decided the Saturday before.
1. Duke 1998-Although I was a little too young to understand the ramifications of the 1992 loss, I knew enough to realize that meeting Duke for the first time since then in the regional finals 6 years later was a big deal. I put it first not only because of the supremely satisfying and improbable way it was done (maybe the best coaching job I have ever seen, definitely the best I have seen out of Tubby) but also because it meant we could all put to rest the demons of that previous loss. While most of the country remembers the 92 game, thanks in large part to the CBS intro, as Kentucky fans we get to smile and know that we made up for it a couple years later, and in high style.