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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dream Game 2.0

Well, it has happened. The impossible scenario that not even Nostradamus could predict. Some have coined this particular meeting Dream Game 2.0, in reference to the Bluegrass Post-Season brawl in 1983. However, those loyal fans that have allowed the rivalry to reach new heights of irrational hatred have considered this Basketball Armageddon. The Clash of the Titans. The Kentucky Civil War (Though today, civility doesn't have as much to do with it). Families are divided, friends become enemies, the best of people turn to their darkest sides in preparation for this phenomenon of the sports world.

Yes, I am talking about the UK vs. Louisville Final Four matchup that will take place this Saturday at 6 PM. These two teams meet every year, but it has been a consistent trend of Kentucky's immaturity mixed with Louisville's barrage of injuries. The same consistent story that meshes with the mentality of hatred the fans seem to implement, and usually results in a hard fought but UGLY game of missed shots, idiotic fouls, and a hell of a lot of turnovers.

But this game - it will be different. Whereas once these two teams were messy, unorganized, and prepared just enough to win a battle, today both of them are clean, polished, and ready for WAR. The two teams are playing their best basketball of the season, and despite the Kentucky fans claiming this will be an easy victory - it is poised to be one of the most legendary games in the history of sports. Where's Christian Laettner when you need him?

Alright, so let me analyze these two teams. Starting with Kentucky. Kentucky is Kentucky. In fact, this year Kentucky basktball looks more like Kentucky basketball should than it has the past 10 years. An unstoppable force, with raging talent that only the best teams could even have a prayer of defeating. Kentucky is the best 'dream team' caliber story in college sports right now, as its a squad of individuals of god-like abilities brought together and forced to work as a team to win basketball games. And we saw what selfish play does to this team. Indiana saw it back in December. Today's Kentucky team is different. They are collective, strong, unselfish, and ridiculously talented. There is not a soul on this planet that knows the truth, the deep dark truth, Kentucky has the major edge on winning this basketball game. And though the cardinal red runs through my blood, I will have to admit that this team has earned it. Outside of Kentucky fans, there aren't too many people that want to see them succeed - but they aren't letting that stop them. Kentucky is easily the favorite to win this basketball game.

Alright, now let's look at this Louisville basketball team. Of initial site, this Louisville team is easily compared to Daniel Ruetteger. Small, mediocre athleticism or talent, an unlikely victor against a giant like Kentucky. But something more important that this Louisville team shares with Rudy is heart. Heart is not something you can teach, coach, train, or force someone to have. Heart is something that one person has, and immediately it spreads to the rest of the team. I credit Peyton Siva with this. There is not a player in the entire tournament that has played with more heart than this Seattle guard who saved his father from suicide at age 13. Louisville is certainly not even close to Kentucky on the talent side, but unlike most of the teams Kentucky has played - they will not roll over and die. And that my friends, is the one thing that could catch Kentucky off guard and result in the unthinkable; the unimaginable. A UK Loss to Louisville.

Peyton Siva Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against  Chattanooga Mocs at the KFC Yum! CENTER on November 22, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Louisville won 106-65. 

But David and Goliath isn't the only biblical analogy for this game. Perhaps Cain and Able come to mind? Two brothers, designed for sibling love but instead one is consumed by hate and jealousy of the others successful approval of God that he takes it upon himself to strike down the others in hope to inherit the fallen's riches. Perhaps that is a little extreme, but weather or not Kentucky fans or Calipari wants to admit it - it does appear that he is intentionally been putting himself in the line of fire of Slick Rick in hopes to one day leave Pitino's legacy in the dust. He needs three more final fours, and a National Championship to do it.


Calipari once considered Pitino a great mentor. But I'm not so sure Pitino was thrilled with the idea of a protege of his accepting work at the school that made his life miserable. He's made several jabs at the school, and as a result the friendship Pitino and Calipari once had has dwindled to a single thread. Leave it to the Bluegrass to pull these two apart.

The other side of the story is the fuel that each coach has managed to throw into the fire for the opposing fanbase. Calipari has had two final fours stripped by the NCAA because of recruiting violations he may or may not have had anything to do with. However, the situations are just too similar in nature for any card fan to rule out as 'just a coincidence'. Since coming to Kentucky, Cardinal fans have wasted no time portraying profits of Lexington's imminent doom when the axe is dropped upon Calipari's head by the NCAA. Worse yet, you see a recruiting class of the top guys in the nation - one can't help but wonder what Cal's trick is to ensuring the best guys come to Kentucky. Especially, a Kentucky program that just four years ago was getting bounced by a middle tier Big East team in the NIT. As a Cards fan, I've made my share of jokes. But I also know that Calipari is a great coach, loves his kids, and is doing the best he can to give Kentucky what they crave most: A National Championship. This may be his year.

Pitino has a rare history of on-court shadiness. The only thing people can accuse Pitino of since the 80's is being obsessed with the game. It's a shame his personal life can't be as respectable. Since  2010, Pitino's squad has been subjected to verbal destruction including 'Karen Sypher' chants, '15 second' jokes, and the assessment that Pitino is a terrible role model for these kids. There is a lot of speculation that this off court drama may have delayed an impending induction into the Hall of Fame for this coach who has won a national championship, and been in six final fours. The truth of the matter is, the tide is turning for the 59 year old, and the best years of his life may just be the next five years leading into his retirement. Pitino's ability to rebound from the face of tragedy is unmatched. 

So who will win the big game? Will it be the unbelievable talent of the Kentucky wildcats? Or will heart-felt underdog story continue for the surging Cardinals?

Fasten your seatbelts, its gonna be a good one!


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