UK – Live Breathe Blue

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Kentucky Basketball — Bruins Ruined!

Bruins Ruined!—By John Huang

As a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, the mere mention of UCLA basketball would immediately invoke in my mind a magical sense of awe and wide-eyed wonder. In my own imaginary world, Coach John Wooden would pencil me into his starting lineup alongside Lew Alcindor, Lynn Shackelford, Curtis Rowe, and Henry Bibby. Together, our team would win a slew of consecutive national titles and become the envy of every competing college program in the land.

Outside of my make-believe universe, I knew that Coach Wooden didn’t really need me as his 5’8” power forward. The Wizard of Westwood, with his pyramid of success, would produce a UCLA dynasty and nearly a dozen national championships symbolic of THE gold standard in the world of collegiate hoops. How ironic then, that it would be the mighty Bruins who would defeat my beloved Kentucky Wildcats in the 1975 National Championship—in what would turn out to be Coach Wooden’s last game before retirement.

I discovered that revenge, even forty years later in a regional semifinal, tastes just as sweet. When that clock finally struck zero and the FedExforum scoreboard read Kentucky 86—UCLA 75, I felt that customary concoction of emotion whenever the Cats advance—elation mitigated by relief, excitement comingled with gratitude, celebration stirred in with anticipation.

In this rematch of the titans, De’Aaron Fox took his point guard battle with Lonzo Ball personally, scoring a career-high and freshman NCAA tournament single game record of 39 points. Backcourt mate Malik Monk resurfaced with 21 points, and the rest of the team did just enough to collectively offset another outstanding effort by UCLA forward TJ Leaf. Kentucky accomplished what Coach John Calipari intended, slowing the pace and mucking up the game intermittently to disrupt the high-powered Bruin offense. For much of the evening, the Wildcats made UCLA work on the defensive end of the court and for their efforts, they were rewarded with another Elite Eight appearance on Sunday.

At this point in the tournament, there really is no rest for the weary. Up next is the University of North Carolina, the #1 seeded team in the region. The Tar Heels easily defeated the Butler Bulldogs 92-80 in the other semifinal matchup. Frankly, they looked unbeatable. They’re also a team looking for their own version of revenge after losing to Kentucky earlier this season. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready for the end of this run. I want to keep dancing on Beale Street and savoring the taste of Rendezvous Ribs. Please Memphis, “Don’t Be Cruel” to my Wildcats. Let’s hope the Tar Heels get “All Shook Up” on Sunday, and it’ll be “Heartbreak Hotel” for the boys in powder blue.

This blog posting was originally submitted as a UK Basketball Column for Nolan Group Media publications.

If you enjoy my writing, please continue to visit me at www.huangswhinings.com and follow me on Twitter @KYHuangs.

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Basketball — Shockers Shucked!

Shockers Shucked!—By John Huang

The last time the Wildcats played in Indianapolis, I left Naptown with a horrible taste in my mouth and a terribly upset stomach. No, my affliction wasn’t due to too much beer at a St. Paddy’s Day celebration, or the world-famous shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s—but rather I was hung over from the indescribable dejection of Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. The image of Frank Kaminsky ruining our undefeated season and the Duke Blue Devils subsequently cutting down the nets two nights later still torments me to this day. I’ll never completely rebound from that traumatic experience, but this past weekend certainly aided my recovery process.


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Kentucky Basketball — Selection Sunday Stink

Selection Sunday Stink—By John Huang

Satire: use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re NOT out to get you. When it comes to Selection Sunday, all of BBN knows the NCAA selection committee will do everything in their power to mess with Kentucky’s seeding. Year after year, when the brackets are finally revealed, you can bet your Big Blue bottom dollar that the Wildcat’s road to the Final Four will be littered with unfavorable matchups and made-for-TV challenges. Forget that Mitch Barnhart was on the committee this year. Even C.M. Newton, back in his day, couldn’t convince the cabal of blockheads in their smoke-filled room not to stick it to the Wildcats.


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Kentucky Basketball — SEC Tournament Frenzy

SEC Tournament Frenzy—By John Huang

For any True-Blue Wildcat basketball fan, a trip to the SEC basketball tournament has become an annual rite of passage. This yearly trek down to Nashville always provides a brazen opportunity to show your unwavering support for the team—a chance to take out a second mortgage, stash the family in the back of the minivan, board your pet, and spend the next four days in a big blue stupor cheering the Cats on to another championship trophy.


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Kentucky Basketball — Dynamic Duos

Dynamic Duos—By John Huang

What do Batman and Robin, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, and Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have in common? They were dynamic duos who, when the chips were down, always found a way to beat the bad guys. To that esteemed group, I’m going to add two more heroic pairs of all-star backcourt tandems—UK guard combos that arguably could be the best in the history of their respective programs.


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Kentucky Sports — Baseball, Hot Dogs and Hoops

Chet White/UK Athletics

Baseball, Hot Dogs and Hoops—By John Huang

I’ve logged a lot of miles this year covering UK Sports. It’s all been great–following the teams, seeing the sights, and trying to accurately describe and convey all my thoughts and observations to the loyal subjects of BBN. My plans are to stay put this weekend and take a quiet respite prior to the grueling grind of the upcoming SEC and NCAA Men’s Basketball tournaments. So for anyone expecting a courtside description of Matthew Mitchell’s sartorial splendor in the Women’s SEC tournament down in Greenville, or a first-hand account of a College Station Whataburger experience after the Men’s final regular season game against Texas A&M, I offer my sincere apologies.


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Kentucky Basketball — Gators Chomped!

Gators Chomped—By John Huang

Way back in my dental school days, I had a classmate who was your typical obnoxious Gator fan. Granted, the guy had legitimate familial connections to the Florida program, but his incessant braggadocio about the team in orange and blue still rankles me to this day. Honestly, a lot of things about the visitors from Gainesville remain irritatingly bothersome. In addition to the misguided loyalties of my wayward nephew, there’s also Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow, Joakim Noah, Matt Walsh, the Gator chomp, and the whole Gator Nation bit. All together, they don’t quite generate enough vitriol to warrant wasting your precious time and daily energy, but you do have just enough dislike for them to cheer like heck against them whenever they’re playing the Wildcats.


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Kentucky Basketball — Senior Night, “Oh My”!

Senior Night, “Oh My”!—By John Huang

University of Kentucky senior night celebrations were once so poignant and unique that even television networks felt compelled to cover them live. I remember Dick Enberg’s voice quivering with his signature “Oh my” immediately after he witnessed the festivities for the first time. Nowadays, with everybody staging their own versions of these farewell moments, the occasion has lost much of its luster. There’s simply not as much sentimentality, emotion, and glamour to trigger our jaded excitement levels.


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Kentucky Basketball — It’s a Doggone Win

Photo by Brendon Miller                       

It’s a Doggone Win—By John Huang

During my stint in the military back in the late eighties, a couple of my best army buddies were hard core Georgia Bulldog fans. Armed with our comparable biweekly subscriptions to the Cats Pause and the Georgia Bulldogs magazines, we would frequently engage in heated Cats vs Dawgs debates regarding our beloved teams. We all accepted the fact that Kentucky always stunk in football and Georgia in basketball. The major difference, however, was that UK fans still cared about football while UGA fans didn’t even acknowledge that the sport of basketball existed.


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