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Not the top dog, but these Kentucky ‘Cats march to Final Four

Mar 27, 2011, 9:44 PM EDT

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The Kentucky Wildcats hoops team arguably carries more weight in college basketball than any other program in the country.

Their fans are completely and utterly narcissistic (and that’s a compliment, I swear I’m not trolling!), their media will chase – literally chase – coaches out of town, and their players are treated like royalty in Lexington. So it doesn’t really seem fitting that the Wildcats take on the name of Cardiac Cats, or something like that, en route to their first Final Four appearance since 1998. [Editor's note: That term's been used recently at Kentucky.]

But this go-round the heavyweight isn’t necessarily the favorite, having to down two higher seeded teams and boasting a roster that doesn’t have nearly the star power of the squad that fell one year ago in the Elite Eight.

With that, you can’t not love this team, and you can’t help but laud the coaching of John Calipari during this recent run, capped by a 76-69 win over North Carolina.

Sure freshman Brandon Knight was the most important player on the floor for Cal, and fellow freshman Terrence Jones was the second most important, but it was the unheralded bit pieces that were huge and a blast to watch this weekend.

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Down an Enes Kanter from the beginning of the season, a frightened Big Blue Nation turned its eyes to a guy who lost tweeting privileges and embraces jean shorts like he’s a true hillbilly.  I’m referring to Josh “Jorts” Harrellson if you’re uninformed, a senior who still has a little bit of baby weight to shed, but has made a strong case for being the toughest player in the entire country.

Over the span of just eight days, Harrellson went toe-to-toe with West Virginia’s Deniz Kilicli, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and prevailed in each and every one of those battles.

Of those players, all but maybe Kilicli have an NBA career ahead of them. Harrellson, as much as I’ve grown to love him this season, does not. Consider this “The Best Time of His Life,” and I’m sure he’s totally cool that.

DeAndre Liggins, who could have easily wavered at playing second-fiddle to a handful of highly regarded freshman these past two seasons, was truly a key cog for this team that won the East Region. Liggins came up especially huge for UK this weekend, averaging 13.5 points and weaseling into the deeply rooted Kentucky basketball historical lore. Surely nobody in the Bluegrass State will ever forget that corner three he nailed with just seconds to play; the dagger in the Tar Heels coffin.

I’m not sure that Kentucky will win the national championship, but they certainly have no glaring deficiencies to suggest they can’t cut down the nets in Houston.

At the very least, this is a juggernaut the entire country can root for.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin.

  1. bigblue333 - Mar 27, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    “their first Final Four appearance since 2003″ They way I remember 2003 was a disappointing loss to Dwayne Wade and Marquette in the Elite Eight. I like your version of history better.

    • Nick Fasulo - Mar 27, 2011 at 10:40 PM

      oversight on my part. someday, my brain will possess more right answers than the internet.

  2. florida727 - Mar 28, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    Kentucky fans are the most obnoxious, arrogant @$$holes on the planet. I remember being in Atlanta for the SEC tournament when a bunch of UK fans riding MARTA to the Georgia Dome started chanting “Walsh is gay!”. They obviously had never seen Matt Walsh’s girlfriend. Let’s just say it was plain to see she was NOT from Kentucky. They don’t have anyone that looks like that…

    • puckotg22 - Mar 28, 2011 at 9:41 AM

      Good idea. Judging the behavior of a small group of Kentucky Fans and applying that to everyone that is a Kentucky fan. Kinda of like the guy I met from Florida that was a total asshole. I guess all people who live in Florida or are from Florida or have visited Florida are assholes. Makes sense.

    • bigblue333 - Mar 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

      Full of hate because of what a team of 18-22 year old kids does, and all because your team is sitting at home. Keep hating — it gets you nowhere.

    • pastorized0004 - Mar 28, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      Wouldn’t use the same language, but I could never root for a team whose fans believe it is their right to win the championship every year and would hire a coach who tries to win at all cost. The NCAA championship is not meant to permanently reside in KY. The UK fans ARE the biggest jerks in basketball. I don’t mind their players doing well, just not the team.
      And my team is in the final four. Graduated from the same H.S. as the #54 Bulldog.

      • bigblue333 - Mar 28, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        No Kentucky fan cares whether you root for Kentucky or not. From your moral high ground, you probably can’t see that.

        That would be like me claiming that every Butler fan who can pull a marginal connection to the team out of their ass is a bandwagon-eer. Why, by God, my brother-in-law (who went to Purdue and IU) ended up in a Butler t-shirt last year just because he lives in Indianapolis and wanted a team to root for. Does that mean every fan fits some stereotype?

        If you want to rain on our parade, at least call it for it it is.

      • batspid3000 - Mar 28, 2011 at 3:35 PM

        An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way.

        “Idiot” originally referred to “layman, person lacking professional skill”, “person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning”

        Need I say more?

  3. pnoty96 - Mar 28, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Screw KY. maybe at least ONCE people will root for teh little guys..the VCU’s..the Butlers..instead ALWAYS the Trumps of the world. Although knowing most people…they will root for those who already have teh world at their feet…

  4. mostdiggity - Mar 28, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    good for all ya’ll. do what you do but keep it outta my yard, OK?

    i live in florida (it’s full of liars, lizards, and snakes), moved here after 24 years in NC, which was after 22 in KY.

    guess what? an asshole i ain’t, and a Cats fan i am. i love the Cats and respect the rest, even (no especially) the little guys who stuck it up the jayhawks.

    why hate on kansas? they talked junk to those VCU boys at the pre-game saying, “the run ends here boys” and shit like that. poor sportsmanship! the guy that said that cried the loudest!

    OK.whatever you wanna say about kentucky fans is probably somewhere between stupid and on point. i’ve run the BBN trips and seen ‘em all… the assholes are a small minority, but on a big ship there’s a lot of people, so the numbers of kentucky jerks could be higher than most.

    we all know this year overall talent level is down from last. but, this team is AS TALENTED as ANY TEAM in the country right now. their chemistry, coaching, talent, luck, and extra incentives, (no not calipari pay) but the committee slap-in-the-face and revenge factors ADD UP. count em.

    i did before this thing started. and i’m a bettin’ man.

  5. goforwinuk - Apr 2, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Kentucky has long been known for beautiful women, fast horses and great basketball. Am I from Kentucky? You bet!! Do I want Kentucky to win? Of course I do!! Best wishes to coach Cal and the Kentucky Wildcats!! Go for the win Big Blue. One more time (for now) tonight!!!

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