It’s a good time to be a basketball fan in Kentucky. This is great news, because basketball is king in Kentucky.
On Monday the Rick Pitino-coached University of Louisville Cardinals won the state’s second straight national championship in men’s basketball.
The Cards have already had a stellar season in which they (1) lost only five games, (2) beat in-state rival – and national defending champions – Kentucky for the first time in four seasons, (3) won both the Big East regular season and tournament titles, and (4) generally destroyed their first three NCAA tournament opponents before standing tall after a nail-biting barn-burner in the Final Four against Wichita State.
If you still have no idea what Louisville is all about, then ....
As a lifelong Kentucky fan, I have no qualms admitting that this year’s Louisville team is impressive ... amazingly impressive. The Cards have employed a defensive scheme predicated on full-court pressure that has flustered opponents and leads to easy baskets and fun fast-breaks. On offense, the Cards have terrific balance with reliable low post scorers and knock-down jump-shooters will beat you (See Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson against Wichita State).
And then there’s Louisville’s coach.
Pitino, who is already the only coach in history to lead three different programs to the Final Four, became the first coach to win championships at two different programs. Pitino’s first championship came in 1996 when he was head coach at hated intra-state rival Kentucky with a team that is strangely similar to his current one. Following an unprecedented string of success with Kentucky, Pitino left for the pros, only to come back to coach the hated Cards – further adding to the intensity of basketball within the state of Kentucky.
Oh, and by the way, the Cards have some notable fans:
A win by the Cards tonight sets up one of the most epic showdowns in the history of the UK-UofL rivalry next December. The two teams will meet for their annual Battle for the Bluegrass games with the highest stakes possible for a regular season game. UofL will enter the game returning the majority of its core players who led the team to tonight’s national championship game. The Cats will suit up no less than eight McDonald’s All Americans, six of whom will be freshmen. By the way, next year’s Kentucky team is the early favorite to win next season’s championship.
Did I mention that it’s a good time to be a basketball fan in the state of Kentucky?
Regardless of allegiance to any university, for Kentuckians it’s OK for the entire state to be Cardinal red tonight. Basketball is king in Kentucky, and when passions run that high it’s nice to experience the best teams in the nation two seasons in a row – regardless of what jersey they’re wearing.