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UK, IU Fans Have Good Reasons to Be Happy

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WBKR’s #1 college basketball fan here still celebrating the official start of the 2012-2013 season. Yesterday was Opening Day and featured 222 out of 338 Division I teams in action. Two of those teams–the Kentucky Wildcats and the Indiana Hoosiers–opened their campaigns with victories. Both fan bases have reason to be very pleased.

Kentucky 72, Maryland 69

The new-look ‘Cats have been unfairly compared to last season’s championship team far too often and for far too long. That team was other-worldly, a once-in-a-decade collection.

I’m not saying UK will be waiting another 10 years to cut down the nets, but last year’s 38-2 juggernaut was a season-long battering ram that featured an enviable collection of extraordinary freshman talent and seasoned veteran players.

This year, there’s no such thing as a seasoned veteran player.

Oh, there’s a senior, alright. He’s Julius Mays, but he’s a transfer from Wright State and this his first (and only) year as a Wildcat. No, what the ‘Cats have this season IS talent, but it’s incredibly young. It’s Coach John Calipari’s youngest team to date.

But UK still pulled out a three-point win in its first match-up with Maryland since the 2002 NCAA Tournament. The fact that the Terps are a bit older and a little more experienced is a good thing.

Here’s how it happened:

Freshman Archie Goodwin’s fearlessness in driving to the basket and his 16-point contribution.

Freshman Nerlens Noel’s defensive prowess–9 rebounds, 3 blocks.

Kyle Wiltjer’s continued maturation as a sweet-stroking three-point shooter; he led all Wildcats with 19 points, including 4 threes. That’s amazing for a 6’10″ power forward.

But the biggest–and nicest surprise–of the night had to be junior guard and former walk-on Jarrod Polson who poured in 10 points, including the free throws that sealed the 72-69 victory for the ‘Cats. I’m not sure Polson scored 10 points in his first two seasons, let alone in any previous game, so this has to make Coach Cal and Big Blue Nation feel very good. You can click here for highlights.

But it’s also time to get over it.

Kentucky’s first meeting with Duke in 11 years looms large. The ‘Cats and the far more experienced Blue Devils will meet in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome Tuesday night at 8:30.

Indiana 97, Bryant 54

Okay, I know. Indiana was never going to lose this game. Never.  N-E-V-E-R. But the hoops-crazed Hoosier Nation hasn’t entered a season ranked #1 in a very, very long time. So they’re just glad to get this thing underway.

Seriously, poor Bryant University won all of two games last season. Lambs to the slaughter. But it’s something the Indiana fans have needed. For highlights of IU’s game, you can click here.

I know I probably shouldn’t be writing about the Hoosiers in the same “breath” as I’m writing about Kentucky. But I’m a huge college basketball fan. I love it all. And I have a great deal of appreciation for the traditional powerhouses in the sport. Even the one I hate. (Yes, Duke, I’m looking at you.)

I love how the Hoosiers love their roundball and I’m glad that program is back where it belongs…among the elites in college basketball. I hate that the Indiana/Kentucky rivalry has been suspended now that both programs are great again. But that’s the way it is.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll meet up in the NCAA Tournament again.

Goose bumps.

Anyway, we have arrived, after 7 long months. College hoops.

How sweet it is!

 

 

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