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Kentucky’s making a trip to Chicago to take on UCLA

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Kentucky fans demand that others respect or envy our past and fear out future. Kentucky fans should also respect or envy UCLA’s past. As for the future for UCLA, it remains to be seen. Fear isn’t exactly in the Big Blue Nation’s lexicon this year.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know how any knowledgeable Kentucky fan can live without John Scott's Big Blue History website. I know I tend to go there for information almost on a weekly basis. John has become a regular poster on the Cats Illustrated forum. His insight's are always worth a read.

As Glenn points out in his article, Looking Forward To The Kentucky Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins, UCLA and Kentucky have a combined 19 national championships. Oddly enough, the two teams have only played each other ten times with Kentucky winning six. The first three games were Kentucky victories in Lexington in 1951, 1959 and 1961.

Kentucky's first loss was the 1975 NCAA championship game un San Diego which just happened to be John Wooden's final game before retirement. UCLA was ranked #1 and Kentucky was #2.  Many of us thought Joe Hall's team had the deck stacked against the Cats as UCLA won 85-92.

Since that game, the Bruin's and the Wildcats have split the remaining six games. Kentucky won in the 1998 Southeast regional semifinals in St. Petersburg, FL 94-68 on its way to a national championship. The Cats won again the following year in the Puerto Rico Shootout 66-62 and our last win was a 52-50 match in the 2003 John Wooden Classic in Anaheim. UCLA beat the Cats 82-81 in 1994 Wooden Classic, lost again in overtime 97-92 in the 2000 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York and again in the 2006 Maui Classic 73-68. You can see the results here. If you click on the result for each game, you'll get the box score.

John Wooden's record against Kentucky was 1-3, but Wooden won the one that really counted in that NCAA Championship game. My respect for Wooden doesn't come from the basketball court, but it comes from his personal life. I don't know how many people know that he wrote his wife a love letter on the 21st day of each month after the death of his wife, Nellie, until his last days before he died in 2010. His wife died in 1985.

UCLA has had a string of coaches following Wooden's retirement : Gene Bartow (1976 & 1977), Gary Cunningham (1978 & 1979), Larry Brown (1980 & 1981), Larry Farmer (1982 - 1984), Walt Hazzard (1985 - 1988), Jim Harrick (1989 - 1996), Steve Lavin (1997 - 2003), Ben Howland (2004 - 2013) and Steve Alford (2014 - ?). Jim Harrick brought the Bruin's their 11th national Championship in 1985. If you're interested, you can take a look at the 2014-2015 UCLA media guide.

There are two problems UCLA coaches must face. First, is the Wooden legacy and the second is the fact that they have to compete with the Lakers for the sports dollar. The Wooden legacy created a unrealistic  fan base, much like the Big Blue Nation. The expectations were/are unrealistic. Kentucky faced the same pressure from the fans, but Joe Hall won a national championship after following Rupp. UCLA went through four coaches before winning another title. Gene Bartow and Larry Cunningham both had better win percentages than Wooden, but that didn't satisfy the Bruin fan base.

UCLA has to compete for fans with the L.A. Lakers and the Clippers in addition to the University of Southern California. That can't be easy, especially competing with the two NBA teams. In 1976, UCLA averaged 12,047 per game which was good enough for 7th place nationally. Kentucky averaged 11,511 which put UK in 9th place behind Vanderbilt.  In 1997, Kentucky ranked #1 in attendance with a average of 22,323. #2 was New Mexico with an average of 15,770. UCLA was not in the top 10. In 1978, the NCAA began to list the top 25 rather than only the top 10. Once again, Kentucky was #1 and averaged 23,335. UCLA placed 19th with an average of 11,333. In 1985, Syracuse took the top spot, averaging 25,870. UK was second with 22,923. UCLA wasn't in the top 25.

The game, obviously, passed Pauley Pavilion by. From 1965, when the arena was built, until 2011 the capacity was 12,829. The 2010-2012 renovation increased the capacity to 13,800. For comparison, Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas) seats 16,300. Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) seats 9,314. The Dean E. Smith Center (North Carolina) seats 21,800 and Rupp Arena seats 23,000. All are official numbers and each venue has seated more. Rupp is the only off-campus venue. Attendance numbers are from the NCAA. Seating capacities were taken from Statsheet.com.

Kentucky has never played in Pauley Pavilion and UCLA has never played in Rupp Arena. That will change with the new home and home two game series beginning next year. Kentucky will take a trip to Pauley next year and UCLA will take a trip to Rupp the following year. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but I would like to see the series continue either  with a home and home series or on a neutral court.

While Kentucky is on a roll, winning all eleven games by double digits, The UCLA Bruins are licking their wounds after losing to #9 Gonzaga 87-74 at Pauley Pavilion Saturday night.  The Bruin fan base is expressing frustration and angst directed toward their coach, Steve Alford.

After Kentucky's win over North Carolina at Rupp Arena, the Wildcats have solidified their hold on the A/P poll voters as the #1 team in the nation. UCLA has lost to #15 Oklahoma 65-75 and #24 North Carolina 56-78 in The Battle for Atlantis, as well as to Gonzaga at home. Their record stands at 8-3. As most know Kentucky beat #10 Kansas in Indianapolis 72-40 and #9 Texas 63-51 and #24 North Carolina 84-70 at Rupp Arena.  Kentucky ranks #1 in the RPI while UCLA stands at #114.

While Kentucky fans debate the national media as to whether or not the Wildcats can go through a season without a loss, UCLA fans are clearly unhappy with their coach. Just for what it's worth, the national media is beginning to see and undefeated season while the Big Blue Nation isn't buying the idea. Seth Davis at ESPN is the most vocal about this to the point where Adam Zagora put up a poll asking the question if the Cats can go undefeated. You can read the Zagsblog article and see the poll results here.

Meanwhile, you can read about UCLA and the aftermath of the Gonzaga loss with the following stories at Bruin Nation:

Zags Beat Bruins Comfortably, 87-74

Just Can't Beat A Good Team

Clueless Dick Vitale Sounds Ignorant About UCLA

You have to read the comments just to see how angry the Bruins fans are. This turmoil doesn't serve UCLA well with Saturday's 3:00PM match against Kentucky.  Comparing the two teams offensively, using the Four Factors gives a false impression that the two teams are comparable. The same was true for North Carolina. You can see the comparison here at Statsheet.com.  You'll get a radar chart at the bottom of the page which shows just how close the two teams match up. But, when it comes to Kentucky, you have to look at the defensive stats to get the real picture. After Sunday's games, here's how the two teams compare:

Scoring Defense: #2 Kentucky 48.0 ppg, #267 UCLA 71.0 - tied with McNeese State

Field Goal % Defense: #1 Kentucky 30.4%, #120 UCLA 40.2%

Defensive Rebounds per Game: #81 Kentucky 25.91, #19 UCLA 28.36

Rebound Margin: #12 Kentucky 10.6, #50 UCLA 6.9

Steals per Game: #38 Kentucky 8.5, #90 UCLA 7.5

Turnover Margin: #5 Kentucky 5.9, #154 UCLA 0.5

Total Blocks: #1 Kentucky 91, #22 UCLA 52 - tied with Harvard

Blocked Shots per Game: #2 Kentucky 8.3, #75 UCLA 4.7

For those who like graphics.......

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With all due respect to UCLA and their 11 championships, I think it is safe to say that this game will take us to 12-0 with a continuation of double digit victories going into Louisville week. Glenn's weekly preview will give you the player matchup.