Earlier this week on the radio show, Matt and Ryan briefly touched on the Indiana rivalry again. Ryan, having grown up in Indiana, was assumed to have a more passionate desire to see the rivalry continue. When pressed though, he admitted it was more about having good, big games with a great atmosphere on the schedule – not Indiana specifically. Which got me thinking – if all we’re looking for is a great game in a great atmosphere, why don’t we just pick some new rivals? I’m all fine with Indiana, and I don’t want to detract from the history of that rivalry, but let’s be honest. Indiana at their best is a sweet sixteen team, and at this point they aren’t even on our schedule, so I would like to make the case for adding Kansas as a rival.
I know – generally speaking – you don’t just get to pick and choose your rivals. And there is no way a UK-KU rivalry would likely ever have the heat behind it the Tennessee one does, and certainly it wouldn’t reach Louisville proportions. But I do think it could be great for the fans and the programs, and I think that’s the case for a number of reasons.
Right now, Kansas and Kentucky are at the top of the all time NCAA wins list, with only 10 wins separating the two. They have five national titles to our eight, and dominate the Big 12 the same way Kentucky dominates the SEC. Their history includes James Naismith, the inventor of basketball – ours includes Adolph Rupp, one of the best coaches to walk to sidelines. The tradition is rich on both sides, and both sides continue to build on it to this day. With Calipari and Self at the helm, both programs look to continue their dominance in the near future.
On Court Match Ups
There was a period where Kentucky played Kansas on the regular – from 1969 to 1985. But since I wasn’t born until the year after that, perhaps someone else can tell me why it ended. Either way – there’s not much venom currently between the two programs and that may be a disservice to the idea of a rivalry. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our run ins recently. Most notably the NCAA championship game in 2012. But don’t forget, Kentucky played Kansas earlier that season in Madison Square Garden, and both seemed to be on a collision course for the title game in 2010 when they were clearly the best two teams in the country. You would also be remiss not to note that Kansas’s last championship came against a John Calipari lead Memphis team.
Off The Court Match Ups
You can start with Xavier Henry if you like, or Perry Ellis, Julius Randle, or some guys from way back that I can’t remember. But it pretty much starts and ends with Andrew Wiggins. It remains to be seen as to just how electric Wiggins will be, but if he is like some believe, he will be a program changer. Just like John Wall set a culture at Kentucky, there’s a good chance Wiggins sets one for Kansas down the line. With Wall and Wiggins being premiere stars in the NBA, the Kansas/Kentucky rivalry has a chance to transcend the sport.
Fan Bases and Arenas
Duke has dorks, North Carolina has the wine and cheese crowd, Louisville has DJ’s and Tennessee has a terrible basketball team. Kansas has what most believe to be the best arena in the college game, and with that come some of the best fans. They aren’t as numerous as Big Blue Nation, and they aren’t as passionate or all encompassing – I mean, you don’t see ‘Rock Chalk Jayhawk in the Morning’ youtube videos – but they may be the closest we can get to brethren in the college game. Plus, I hear the Chipotle in the media room at Phog Allen is reason enough alone to schedule this series.
Shaping the Landscape
Most importantly, I think a Kansas/Kentucky rivalry has a chance to shape the landscape of college basketball for years to come. KU lost their premiere rival in Missouri with the move to the SEC. Louisville is doing well, but I’m not sold on how long they can sustain a year in and year out great basketball team – and even if they can, I’m not looking to replace them anyway. Carolina is fun to play for a lot of these same reasons, but they will always be connected to the Duke rivalry before one with Kentucky. Make this a yearly game, and I guarantee it becomes one of the top ten games to watch every season.
What do y’all think? Kansas – should we or shouldn’t we?