As we’ve been saying for a while now, over in the Commonwealth, Kentucky fans are getting good and ready to play Duke in the season opener in the Champions Classic on November 6th.
BBN is not very happy with the viral attention Duke got after the trip to Canada, not least of all because the Wildcats were highly impressive on their own tour.
The Christian Laettner thing has a tremendous amount to do with it of course. His shot in the 1992 Eastern Regional Finals left a wound in Kentucky’s collective psyche that has never fully healed.
The funny thing is that despite the heat of the rivalry, the teams have only played 21 times with UK holding the advantage 12-9. Three of those took place in the old Southern Conference in the 1930s and at least nine games took place when both teams were entirely segregated.
They’ve met twice in the Final Four, with Kentucky beating Duke in 1966 and getting the booby prize of losing the most symbolic game in history when they played Texas Western for the title and thus being associated for all time with the last all-white team losing to the first all black team in the NCAA finals.
They met again in 1978 when Duke was a fresh, young team and finally back into the national conversation after slumbering for nearly a decade after Vic Bubas retired.
Kentucky won what described as a joyless title because that team was under heavy pressure to win it and losing would have been really unpleasant.
Since then though Duke has won seven to Kentucky’s two.
If you count 1978 as the first game of the modern era, Duke is still 7-3 vs. UK.
But the tension still goes back to Laettner. After that game Duke became a cause and it will be for the foreseeable future.
So while the Duke camp won’t prepare the same way, Kentucky fans are already loading for bear. Or more precisely Blue Devils.
And the truth is that, at least on paper, Kentucky should probably be favored. So if Duke does pull off a win, the fury will just grow.
Which is fine - the teams have a good chance of playing again next spring.