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Kentucky Fans On The ACC/SEC Challenge: Why Didn’t We Get Duke?

Simple answer: you’re not that good lately

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Duke
Nov 9, 2021; New York, New York, USA;Duke Blue Devils guard Trevor Keels (1) celebrates with forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Madison Square Garden.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As you may recall, there was a brief rumor that Duke might play at Kentucky in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, something that excited UK fans tremendously...only to find that the Blue Devils would play Arkansas in Fayetteville instead.

You can almost feel the jealous vibes: why the rubes down there? What do they have that we don't have? We’re the basketball school - you know, like Duke!

The truth though is that Kentucky has been sliding for some time and as much as TV would like the matchup, Kentucky is not the dominant team in the SEC at the moment.

Actually, the Wildcats are probably not seen as the first, second, third and maybe not fourth best team heading into the season.

Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M could all be better. The days of Kentucky just dominating the SEC are over, at least for now and possibly for a long time.

But don’t take our word for it. Here is part of the opening of a podcast called Locked On Kentucky: “[F]or the first time in what seem like a while, we actually have some good, positive Kentucky basketball news to talk about: they’re gonna have more than seven guys on the team now!”

“Can you believe it? Can you believe something good has happened for John Calipari and the Wildcats?”

That pretty much sums up why Duke is playing Arkansas instead of Kentucky.

Here’s a better question, or two really: first: how long will BBN accept poor results from Calipari? And second, who would UK target to replace him?

Okay, let’s go for three: who would actually take this job and the insane pressure and expectations that come with it?

When you think about it, since Adolph Rupp retired in 1972, only Rick Pitno has met the expectations of BBN. Joe B. Hall, Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie and Calipari have all come in for withering criticism.

Succession has been a problem for UCLA too and UNC, but neither school has had quite the same level of ugliness from fans when their coach didn’t live up to expectations.

Needless to say, this could become a problem down the road for Duke too, so Blue Devil fans, don’t get too cocky.