This Week in Wildcat History is back in action once again, but as the calendar has turned to December and the football Cats have tallied another mark under the L column against the Vols, we’ve traded in the oblong pigskin for the Bluegrass State’s favorite sphere.
While most of the nation won’t start focusing on college hoops until the Super Bowl fades into the early February sunset, we here around the tailgate know that you’ve been on the edge of your seats since the season officially started on October 15. So, it’s without further ado that we jump right into the mix and start to boast about the most illustrious history in all of college basketball. You may or may not be excited about this post, but I can tell you that after a fall season filled with sub-.500 statistics and losing streaks, I’m flat-out tickled pink about it.
Tuesday night’s beatdown of unranked Boston University marked the 10th time in UK’s history that the Cats have taken to the hardwood on November 30. Not surprisingly, Kentucky now holds an all-time mark of 10-0 in those contests. Last year, the Cats produced a similar beat-down of UNC-Asheville in the former home of the Louisville Cardinals, winning by a margin of 94-57. Looking back on that one, it appeared that some guy named John Wall played a pretty good game.
But as nice as it is to beat Boston, this week isn’t about the Terriers. Or the Red Sox, Bruins, or Celtics, for that matter. This week is about Carolina. And, unfortunately, Kentucky’s head-to-head record against the Heels isn’t quite as sparkling as you might expect.
The Cats have taken to the court 19 times throughout their history on December 4, where they hold an all-time record of 13-6. They last played on 12/4 back during the 2004-05 campaign against…the North Carolina Tar Heels. Carolina won that game 81-78 in route to a National Championship.
In fact, Kentucky enters Saturday’s matchup with UNC having won just 11 of the 32 matchups between the two programs. And, while the Cats and Heels have met every year since the 2000-01 season, they have only played six times in the Dean Dome to date, with the home team sending the Cats back to Lexington with losses in four of those games.
In terms of rivalries go, though, this series holds plenty of intensity. Never mind the fact that between the two, you’ve college hoops’ two most-winningest programs; never mind that the two programs are ranked 1 and 2 in terms of NCAA Tournament appearances, games played, and wins; never mind that, between the two, you have college basketball’s two highest all-time winning percentages; or that the two programs have spit out so many professionals that not even the Turkish Fenerbache club can keep up.
The East Regional Finals in 1977 produced the infamous Rick Robey – Dean Smith verbal altercation (or, lack thereof, if you believe the man who patented the most boring offense in the history of the game). And who could ever forget the Regional Final in 1995, when Andre Riddick and Rasheed Wallace tried to turn the basketball court into a squared circle?
For all of those reasons, Kentucky-Carolina is a December treat for any sports enthusiast. Thus, there’s no question as to why CBS chooses it to open up their college basketball season every year.
Last year’s game produced the most mind-boggling and exciting 29-2 run that I think I’ve ever seen at Rupp Arena. After several years, the sleeping giant was awakened, and it was made known loud and clear on national television. Let’s hope these new Cats make a similar statement on Saturday afternoon.
Until next week.