College Basketball

A love letter from Big Blue Nation to UNC, Duke

Dear Triangle,

So you thought Kentucky basketball fans were obnoxious before.

You thought all they ever talked about was the eight national titles and Adolph Rupp and the “Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball” – it’s not the state seal of the Commonwealth, but it should be – the current coach who has all but retired the best-recruiter trophy, and much, much, much more.

Just wait, good basketball people of the 919, it’s going to get worse. Much worse.

We know, this year’s Duke isn’t last year’s Duke, the one that lost to (Ron?) Mercer. This year’s Duke boasts the Fab Three of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. It has the U.S. National coach in Mike Krzyzewski, like being the Olympic coach isn’t a recruiting advantage. Seriously.

We know, North Carolina has more than its usual complement of McDonald’s All-Americans and a roll call of college basketball victories nearly (but not quite) as long as Kentucky’s list. We know that Roy Williams has one more national title than John Calipari and dad-gum-it you’d be crazy to count Ol’ Roy out, whether it be Dec. 13 in Rupp or tournament time.

This year is different, however. Much different. This is the year Kentucky isn’t just equipped to win. It’s equipped to dominate.

The Cats don’t have depth, they have ridiculous depth. Why Calipari said it himself after Kentucky crushed Kansas 72-40 in the Champions Classic. “We don’t have subs,” Coach Cal gushed, “we have reinforcements.”

Actually, what Cal has is platoons. The Blue Platoon. The White Platoon. All by themselves, each could probably make a strong run at cutting down the nets in April. Together, they constitute the deepest team college hoops has seen in a long, long time, maybe ever.

The Cats don’t have length, they have ridiculous length. Willie Cauley-Stein is 7 feet tall and guards out on the floor like he’s Michael Jordan. Dakari Johnson is a 7-foot beast on the block. Karl Towns is 6-11 and possessor of a freaky upside. Trey Lyles is a 6-10 freshman who packs a perimeter punch.

Marcus Lee is listed at 6-foot-9, but plays much taller. Just ask Michigan, which in last year’s Midwest Region final, kept watching the former California volleyball stud sky over the heads of various Wolverines for game-changing lob dunks. And up to the point, Lee had barely played all season.

“John should go 45-0 with that talent,” said Larry Brown, the former Heel and maybe now former Calipari friend.

Total superiority will be especially sweet over certain citizens of the 919.

Kentucky fans have long tired of the long-standing favored nation status of the so-called “North Carolina Way’’ – exposed as the “No-study Carolina Way” – as if the elitist Heels were a cut above the crass Kentuckians.

And don’t get the Big Blue Nation started on Duke. You would think the only game of any significance ever played was that “Christian Laettner Game” in which the subject of the best-selling “I Still Hate Laettner” T-shirts should have been booted for foot-stomping poor Aminu Timberlake long before Laettner made “The Shot” now played on an infinite loop during every NCAA tournament.

Kentucky did extract a bit of revenge in the 1998 NCAA tourney, but no one seems to remember that. (Or the 1978 NCAA championship game, when Jack Givens poured in 41 against the G Men, Gminski and Gene Banks, in a 94-88 win.) Ever since the ’92 game, Kentucky fans have lived for the day their beloved Cats could erase those Laettner memories finally and forever.

This could be the year, the year when Kentucky basketball is so head-and-shoulders above the rest of college hoops that even the 919 will be afterthought, the year when the Big Blue fan base can rename itself Domination Nation.

You thought Kentucky basketball fans were obnoxious before, just wait.


Domination Nation

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