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The Philosophy of Losing: Why Kentucky Should Drop One Now

UK's Anthony Davis and Darius Miller (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Any Big Blue fan who reads that headline will have a knee-jerk reaction that might include a desire to go for my throat. I get it. It sounds nuts. Why would a Kentucky basketball fan such as myself want the ‘Cats to lose to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game? Well…pull up a chair. There is a great deal of superstition involved in Kentucky basketball fandom. If the ‘Cats wear the same color of road uniforms they wore when they beat Duke in the 1998 regional final, that’s good luck.

If Kentucky’s football team beats Louisville’s football team in the fall, it doesn’t bode well for Big Blue Hoops in the winter. I could name more, but they’re not exactly written down. They’re generated by intuition.

In other words, Wildcat basketball superstitions simply occur to fans…and then snowball. But there’s one thing that more that just a handful of ‘Cat fans can agree on. When Kentucky is in the midst of a potential championship campaign, and they’ve only lost one game by the time post season rolls around, it might be more comfortable for all of us if they’d go ahead and lose one before NCAA Tournament time.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s a UK fan for ya. I’ll explain my logic. During a recent game broadcast–and Kentucky wasn’t even playing–the announcers were talking about national title contenders. Kentucky, of course, was mentioned along with Syracuse, North Carolina, Ohio State, and a few others. But this little statistic came up: no team since the undefeated 1976 Indiana squad has won the national championship coming into the tournament with only one loss (or fewer) or a 20-plus win streak.

At this moment in time, Kentucky is sporting both. Yep, if the ‘Cats were to beat Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon, they’d bring a 33-1 record and 25-game win streak into the Big Dance. Would Big Blue Nation love to see a 39-1 record? Of course, they would! But 38-2 is just as nice.

It’s just that we’d all rather avoid seeing that second loss arrive after March 11. And, there’s some history here. UNLV entered the NCAA Tournament in 1991 undefeated. They lost in the Final Four to Duke. Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils came in with one loss in 1999. Connecticut beat ‘em by three in the championship game.

And how’s this for some of that weird Kentucky superstition? The most recent occurrence was in 2008. Memphis only had one loss as tournament play began. They were felled by Kansas in overtime in the title match. And, who was the Memphis coach at the time? John Calipari. This is all actually fascinating. There are true Kentucky fans who wouldn’t mind UK losing to Vandy in SEC title game. March Madness, indeed.

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