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Kentucky Basketball, the Prime Directive and the Haters

ESPN has its Pursuit of Perfection and CBS has its Quest for Perfection themes going as the NCAA Tournament approaches. Of course, they are referring to a 40-0 season which would include Kentucky’s ninth national championship.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of 40-0 is certainly pleasing to the BBN, but the Prime Directive is that ninth championship. 40-0 isn't the goal, but it is icing on the cake and the realization of John Calipari's dream after winning Kentucky's eighth championship in 2012.  I'm not sure he really envisioned that it might come true so soon at the time he gave his vision.

Kentucky has always had its detractors, but the intensity of the sentiments has risen since Calipari came on as Kentucky's coach. The condemnation arguments go in order:

1. Calipari cheats. This argument is based on vacated games at UMass and Memphis.

2. Calipari pays his players

3. Calipari can't coach.

4. Calipari exploits the one-and-done rule

There's no need for me to delve into the perceived four flaws of John Calipari in detail. Any good Kentucky fan can point to the first two with a "Prove it" response. The accusations don't hold water and that really irritates the haters. The third is ridiculous based on his record of victories. At UK, he has taken his teams to an Elite Eight, three Final Fours and a National Championship. He is, however, guilty of exploiting the one-and-done rule.

Doing so is not an NCAA violation. Kansas, North Carolina and Duke and others have all taken advantage of the rule. The difference is that they've not been able to recruit the same number of elite players. Plus, they try to convince players that it is better to stay four years before heading to the NBA. Calipari doesn't apologize for getting his players ready for the NBA in a single year. While Cal's players are making millions, many of our good friends' teams are taking McDonalds All Americans and turning them into second round picks, or worse. Argument #4 is based on pure jealousy. The detractors would do the same, if only they could.

Let's take a look at Kentucky's three biggest detractors this year.

#3 - Kansas

The Kansas fan base are still going through the butt hurt of that 72-40 disaster back on November 18th in the Conseco Field House. Obviously, they want another chance.

#2 - North Carolina

UNC is having a tough year, on and off the court. That hasn't stopped some of their fans from trashing our Wildcats. Their 20-9 record, including a 14 point drubbing at the hands (claws?) of the Cats has them in a bad mood. And, don't forget the academic scandal that's on-going. That has been driving some of the dumbest attacks on Kentucky from the UNC fan base. What was once an institution deemed a pillar of academia has been shown to be a farce. They will probably face some type of NCAA penalties and they could possibly face a loss of accreditation. UNC fans are torn between their hatred and jealousy of Duke and their new found jealousy and hatred for Kentucky. In spite of the trashing of Kentucky, Duke wins this battle of UNC angst. Here's a link for you to enjoy: "So, Hell Freezes Over...." .

#1 - Louisville (Surprise, surprise!)

Kentucky's biggest detractors are Louisville fans and always have been. That is to be expected since they've always been forced to take a back seat to Kentucky. They hated Kentucky long before Eddie Sutton coined the term "Little Brother." If you're old enough to remember when the birds with teeth belonged to the Missouri Valley Conference, the hate was there even back then as well.

We didn't even play them back then, but the jealousy was there because we would not play them. The jealousy may have started when Kentucky became a founding member of the Southeastern Conference while Louisville remained a member of the KIAC. Louisville's membership in that NAIA conference began in 1926 and ended in 1948. The Cards won the NAIA national championship tournament in 1948. If you recall Kentucky won the NCAA Championship in 1948 and teamed up with the Phillips Oil team to win an Olympic championship. If you're not familiar with this, go to John Scott's Big Blue History site to educate yourself. Here's the link for that season.

Between 1913 and 1959 Kentucky played Louisville 12 times. Kentucky won nine and Louisville won three. Two of the three were back to back Louisville victories in 1915 and 1916. In 1959, Kentucky lost to Louisville in the NCAA Mid East Regional semi-final game. They wouldn't meet again until the 1983 "Dream Game." That term was coined by Louisville and the Media. If you're old enough, #12 Kentucky took #2 Louisville into overtime before losing 80-68. That game forced Joe B. Hall and the university into an agreement to play one another each year. Louisville got what they asked for, but the results indicate that you should always be careful what you ask for.

When Louisville forced Denny Crum into retirement in order to hire "Success is a Choice" Rick Pitino, Kentucky's record against Louisville from that 1983 game through Crum's last game in 2001was 13-7.

Rick Pitino hasn't fared any better. Since the first game on 12/29/01, Pitino has only managed to beat his former team five times. He's come up short 11 times. That 11-5 record simply galls UL fans into outrageous and ignorant posts on their message boards. The little green monster of jealousy has reached epic proportions this year in particular. Two of those five wins, I might add, came against the worst coach in Kentucky history and another came against Calipari's "Uncoachables."

Jay Bilas and Mike DeCourcy have added to the Kentucky hate. On College Game Day, Jay Bilas made the following comment:

Kentucky doesn't really fit the stereotype, either. We say "the scourge of the one and dones" and "the one and done is ruining college basketball." You've got all these players going to Kentucky, they have sacrificed their minutes, they have sacrificed scoring, and they are winning. They play together, they play hard and they share the ball. How many guys at Kentucky have been suspended? None. How many have been arrested? None. They are doing it the right way. You don't like it, that's your business. But I'll tell you what, those are really good kids that have done a great job. And if they'd done it somewhere else, everybody would be praising the sacrifice and what great kids and all that stuff.

This created quite a stir with the Louisville fan base and the Duke fan base. If you follow the news, you know why. All I can say about the Bilas comments is, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Mike Decourcy followed up with a piece in The Sporting New defending the Kentucky program in response to an article in The Rolling Stone which said Kentucky is ruining college basketball. If you haven't read the Rolling Stone piece, read it here. Blaming the one-and-done rule is one thing, but claiming Kentucky is engaged in naked capitalism is hyperbole in the extreme.

Part of the angst about Kentucky's dominance has nothing to do with the Wildcats themselves, or with Calipari's methods; part of the problem is that Kentucky has found a way to dominate in an era when college basketball itself is mired in sluggish and largely unwatchable play. These two things are not completely related, but they're not totally unrelated, either: There is an overarching sense that high-level college basketball has lost its way largely because of the one-and-done rule that has benefited Kentucky so greatly. And so I think what people see when they watch Kentucky is a betrayal of our illusions about college sports; I think Kentucky's naked capitalism feels so discomfiting because it doesn't bother to really even hide behind the veil of amateurism.

What I take from the author is that he longs for the days of mediocrity if there were any, or worse, he wants college basketball to go where youth sports has gone: everyone gets a trophy for participation. You need to read DeCourcy's response if for no other reasons than his last sentence.

The fact is the haters are all the more enraged because Kentucky is getting so much attention. The John Calipari Show was on ESPN2, ESPN is doing promos for Kentucky games, TV ratings for Kentucky games are higher for those of any other team. All the talk on the sports shows are about Kentucky.  Everyone is waiting for Kentucky to falter....everyone except Kentucky fans. Kentucky fans don't care if we go 40-0 because the Prime Directive is championship number nine.