Forget about the Governor's trophy , forget about the annual bragging rights , and you can toss the thoughts of the original Dream Game out the window as well .
This one will last for eternity , damn , I just had chills go up and down my spine as I typed that ............. seriously .
For all you folks that had on your top 10 bucket list to see Kentucky and Louisville play for a national championship go ahead and mark it off because realistically this is basically as good as it's ever going to get being matched up in the national semi finals this saturday at 6:10 p.m. CST down in New Orleans at the Super Dome .
Louisville got to the Big Easy because Michigan State was completely confused in how to attack the Cards defense and the Cards elite eight opponent Florida basically choked in extreme terms while UK got their because they have simply been the superior team in all four match ups to date in the NCAA tourney .
As it turned out Cal and his boys was so much better they really didn't need them but Big Blue Nation has never been more impressive than at the Georgia Dome this past weekend . Friday it was 75 % BBN and 25 % Indiana , Baylor , and Xavier then sunday it was 95 % BBN and 5 % Baylor of the 24,079 in attendance . Again , as it turned out Coach Cal and his boys didn't really need them because Baylor's players were shell shocked early in the first half with Kentucky's combination of length , athleticism , and over all basketball talent at all five positions .
What makes this game so special besides it being two of college basketballs top 20 programs and each residing within the same Commonwealth making them arguably the most bitter rivals in the nation for college sports in general ?
Because the two head coaches in my personal opinion are the best two in the nation in their sport . One is in the prime of his career ( Calipari ) the other ( Pitino ) is on the verge of being inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame .
Rick Pitino is a master at taking the solid pure but many times raw athlete and developing him and squeezing every ounce of talent in his body out into a winning team .
John Calipari is a master at recruiting the elite talented players and coaching them up into a cohesive all for one unit .
Pitino supposedly helped get Calipari jump started into the college coaching profession many years ago but according to my sources who have a relationship with both their friendship took a wrong turn a several years ago when some information was reportedly revealed that Pitino actually took credit for giving some money out of his own pocket to help Massachusetts get Calipari under contract .
Calipari , supposedly said this was untrue and has resented the acqusation ever since . Sports Illustrated did a story on the two Italian college coaching giants a few years ago and interviewed the Massachusetts A.D. at the time of the Calipari hiring . He too said their was no truth in the Pitino story of having paid for part of Cal's initial contract .
Wherever the truth lies in that story is of a moot point now because the friendship has long been dissolved and their will be no hatchets buried with Cal at UK and Pitino at Louisville .
History shows that many times these mega matchups in American sports lore never meet the hype that they are built up to be .
This one will .
NCAA South Regional Tidbits
# 1 - Many UK supporters took a deep breath sunday afternoon when NCAA officials passed out the starting lineups and saw Mike Stuart listed as one of the officials ( Stuart tossed Calipari from Rupp Arena 1 1/2 years ago ) and UK had seen him only once since that game but he was no factor due to UK's dominance of Baylor early on .
# 2 - According to one NCAA official on site I spoke with this weekend thank's to UK's contined success in March Madness it has but 7.2 million $$$$ into the SEC vaults .
# 3 - Michael Kidd - Gilchrist is playing at another level offensively the past three weeks and every game just jumps him up the NBA lottery list yet , their continues to be rumors coming out of Wildcat lodge that his family is looking into purchasing an 8 million $$$$ insurance policy from Lloyds of London for next season in case he decides to come back and play another year of college hoops for Coach Cal and BBN .
# 4 - One Georgia Dome events coordinator Jason Kirksey who has traveled the major sports events circuit over the past 25 years told me that he had experienced many different fan bases in all levels of sports but in his humble opinion nobody in college sports comes even remotely close to the passion and love for UK that BBN has . Notre Dame football fans pale in comparison according to Kirksey . The only close association he could think of was the Packers NFL fan base and the Yankees major league baseball fan base .
# 5 - Eastern Ky. was well represented at the Georgia Dome last weekend and if I mention any one of my friends in particular I'll tick off many others so I won't .
Vitale and Barkley Talk About NCAA Tournament & Calipari
ESPN guru Dick Vitale has never been more popular with the college basketball fans across America and there are times that he makes some very astute comments that need to be seriously considered by those at NCAA headquarters .
During one of his many appearances on ESPN of college basketball coverage last weekend Vitale stated that it was time for the NCAA to tweak two rules in college basketball . One was it's time to raise the personal foul count to 6 before a player is eliminated from the game . I agree , with today's physical play in the college game at new levels TWO EARLY fouls in a game has placed many of the prime time players ( the few that haven't exited to the NBA ) on the bench for many minutes with no impact in the game for to much of the game .
The other Vitale suggestion was that game officials should be regulated to only three games per week with possibly one four game week each month . Most college basketball fans aren't aware that many college basketball officials call for multiple conferences and officiate as many as 6 or 7 games a week and up to 80 - 85 games per regular season . They have to be tired after a month or so of those travels both physically and mentally which will have an impact on their performance as an official which in turn has an impact on the outcome of games . This I believe in strongly . Every time their whistle is blown they have to make a decision ............ how can it not have an impact on the game .
Charles Barkley on the other hand made a very good point on the CBS panel of basketball gurus when he stated that it was time for the national media to stop this double standard that they had attached to Calipari in his use of the so called one and done players , yet , never attach it to other college coaches who have had their fair share of one year players jumping on too the NBA as well but not get criticized for it .
Calipari was dealt a roster of Patrick Patterson , a raw but talented freshman by the name of Darius Miller and a bunch of low level Div 1 - A players when he stepped on campus three years ago . He more than anyone in the nation had an excuse to bring in as many elite players as possible to bring back the storied program he was responsible for reviving .
Chance of a Life Time
It's been a labor of love covering UK football and basketball with this column for the weekly papers and websites that take it the last seven years and this coming weekend will culminate in the chance of a lifetime for this ole boy .
I'm financially embarrassed and physically whipped to the point of spaghetti legged exhaustion due to my last three weeks of travels .
But I will be in the Super Dome on press row saturday .
Hopefully , I will be celebrating on Bourbon Street come next monday night with UK's 8th NCAA title in hand but there will not be a column to release until monday week because I for see a complete week of R & R will be needed when I return to the mountains of the Commonwealth of our state .
2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship
NCAA South Regional, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Selected by an on-site committee of the United States Basketball Writers Association.
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
2. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
3. Doron Lamb, Kentucky
4. Quincy Acy, Baylor
5. Christian Watford, Indiana
Most Outstanding Player: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky