On March 7th, 2020, #8 Kentucky overcame an 18-point deficit to stun Florida in Gainesville with a top-in from EJ Montgomery with only a few seconds left. The comeback, one of the largest accomplished in the Calipari Era, had BBN jumping with joy just eight days from Selection Sunday as another fully jelled Calipari team was ready for March.
Their next game was eight very long months later in a three-quarters empty Rupp Arena against Morehead State, who was the last opponent they would defeat in 2020 as they ended the year on a six-game losing streak.
SEC play was a little better, but not by much. They barely squeezed by the bad teams and got crushed by the good ones. Not a single one of them felt like the Kentucky Wildcats were playing, dishing and dunking and alley-ooping and winning by 25.
After a quick exit in the SEC Tournament, another long offseason began early, and a new set of ‘Cats rolled into Madison Square Garden against Duke on November 9th. Did they play well? I mean yeah, but they still lost by eight. Then as usual, they played a bunch of cupcakes for a month, compiling a 7-1 record with extreme ease.
The first actual test since the Duke game was a light one, y’know not too tough but still on the road, get some experience before bigger games. Of course, they blew it and lost in the final seconds just like with Seton Hall a few years ago.
Has UK played well since EJ’s tip in almost two years ago? Yes, in fact they played very nicely and often great in their first eight games. Notre Dame was a letdown, but we knew this team was great before this weekend’s trip to Vegas because they absolutely rolled through their seven cupcakes and hung tough with Duke but just got outshot on opening night. Even last year, they did have some mildly impressive wins at Florida and Tennessee, who was ranked at the time.
But Saturday was completely different. This was the game Big Blue Nation was starving for.
CBS played the March Madness theme on the telecast, Bill Raftery was in the house, a neutral floor was packed with powder blue and Big Blue, and Kentucky from start to finish absolutely rocked the North Carolina Tar Heels 98-69 with dunks, steals, treys, floaters, crashes, splashes, and loud chants of “Go Big Blue!”
These kinds of wins remind the college basketball landscape why eight banners hang in Lexington inside the second-largest hoops arena in the country. Because the Kentucky Wildcats for over a hundred years have played amazing, brilliant, exciting, and purely fun basketball all over the country with a nation clad in blue-and-white of every age always right behind them.
When they went on CBS and put on such a spectacular show like that, I realized how long we’d been waiting for that classic Kentucky basketball we’ve all come to enjoy so much, and if today was an indication of anything, there’ll be much more where that came from very soon. But let’s celebrate the win today because it was one of the special ones. Then Carthago delenda est—let’s get Louisville.