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The Indiana-Kentucky Rivalry, Told By a UK Supporter in the State of Indiana

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The Indiana-Kentucky rivalry is one of the best rivalries in college basketball. It's an enjoyable rivalry ... until you realize you're in enemy territory.

Anthony Davis keeping Cody Zeller off the scoreboard in an emphatic way during the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Anthony Davis keeping Cody Zeller off the scoreboard in an emphatic way during the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"That's going in."

As the ball was leaving Christian Watford's hands in the final seconds of Indiana's improbable victory over Kentucky over four years ago, those were the words I uttered.

I knew it.

Watford was shooting 7-of-14 from the field and made three of his prior five attempts from three-point land before the so-called "WatShot" put Indiana basketball back on the college basketball map.

That was the only loss the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats suffered in the regular season. That team -- led by Anthony Davis, who hasn't been confirmed as a human being -- ran through college basketball and won Kentucky's eighth title.

But for some reason, many of those same Indiana fanatics that circle that moment as their ascendance back into relevancy in college basketball, seem to forget the team that Kentucky beat in the Sweet 16 of that tournament to win the championship.

***

Oh, hey there. Thanks for checking in.

I haven't formally introduced myself here at A Sea of Blue. I'm Mike Whitlow. I've recently joined the staff as a contributor here and you've probably seen my first couple pieces on Skal Labissiere finding his game and Tyler Ulis being the most awesome point guard in the entire world.

Apologies for such an awful start to this. That night was pretty rough for everyone, right?

But, there's a point to this. My heart lies in the Bluegrass with Kentucky basketball, but I'm stuck here in the most pointless state in the Midwest: Indiana.

Is it pointless because there's nothing but corn and IndyCar racing here? Is it pointless because Indiana University is here? Is it both? (To answer these questions, yes ... it's both.)

The main point was to show what life is like as a Kentucky fan in the state of Indiana. Plus, I don't know if you've heard, but Indiana and Kentucky are playing each other for the first time in four years on Saturday night in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32.

***

Here in Indiana, there's a few things that I've heard since the last time Indiana and Kentucky met in the regular season that friends and family usually hammer me with when it comes to the whole Indiana-Kentucky rivalry. Thankfully, only my father (more on him later) is an Indiana fan in the members of my family that I see frequently.

"Christian Watford's shot changed college basketball!"

Easy, puff daddy.

Watford's shot was a great moment in Indiana's history and it happened against a long-time rival.

But, he's no Christian Laettner. (Sorry for making this even worse, guys. I promise it will get better.)

"We beat Kentucky! We're back on the map. Just accept it!"

That's true. Indiana did beat Kentucky over four years ago.

Then, Kentucky would go on to beat Indiana for the fifth time in the last seven meetings in "Catlanta" in the Georgia Dome by 12 and would win a national title three games later.

But, hey! You beat Kentucky that one time at the buzzer.

"You guys are too scared to play us!"

Riiiiiight.

Let's just take a step back for a second to say, last year.

OK, Indiana gets their wish and Kentucky comes back to Assembly Hall for a meeting with the Hoosiers.

This is what would have been waiting for them.

So, as for the whole "scared" thing, you might want to try a different approach.

Maybe try the pitching wedge?

***

I told you there would be more on my father and I plan to deliver just that.

But, in order for me to do that, we have to take a trip down memory lane; the 2003-04 season to be exact. (You weren't expecting to dabble into the Chuck Hayes era with this, were you?)

Just a week prior to the Indiana game, the 'Cats traveled to Detroit and beat Michigan State at Ford Field. They jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 in the polls prior to their neutral-site showdown with Indiana. (Yeah, Indiana fans. Neutral-site games are allowed during the regular season. Does Freedom Hall or the RCA Dome ring a bell?)

Kentucky led by six at the break. It was tight.

And then suddenly, the floodgates opened.

The 'Cats won by 39(!) over the Hoosiers in Indianapolis and I laughed so hard when I heard the final score on the radio during a trip to Ohio with family members, including my father.

"Indiana is so bad. Heck yeah, Kentucky," I blurted out from the back seat.

Folks, let me just say this: the look on my father's face when I said that was perfection. The scowl, the seriousness, the hint of anger, it was glorious.

It was like John Calipari looking at Jamal Murray committing a silly turnover. The look needed to be in a picture frame.

My father glared at me and said, "You can walk home, you know."

And from then on, it was war whenever Indiana played, so thank you for planting the seeds of becoming a member of Big Blue Nation, Dad.

***

In all seriousness, Saturday night's meeting between Indiana and Kentucky is great for the schools, it's great for the tournament and it's great for the two states. College basketball is much, much better when Kentucky and Indiana are relevant and playing to their stature of their programs.

The poetic thing about Indiana and Kentucky meeting each other once again is that it's happening on a neutral floor.

And just for those in the state of Indiana that didn't know and continue to throw as much shade as possible towards me for wearing Kentucky blue out in public, that's where postseason titles are decided. I know it's been since 1987 for Indiana, so you're probably rusty to the concept, but that's how things are done.