Past Imperfect: Kentucky-Louisville & the Dream Game

Posted by JWeill on March 28th, 2012

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the original Dream Game between Louisville and Kentucky.

It was bound to happen someday. Despite Kentucky’s clear antipathy toward playing in-state archrival Louisville, there was going to come a time when it was simply unavoidable. That time finally came, was forced to come actually, on March 26, 1983, in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the Mideast Regional final, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

No knowing observer was unaware of the possibility of a Bluegrass clash when the brackets were unveiled. Just a year prior, a similar tournament setup had been quashed when Kentucky was upset by Middle Tennessee State. This time around, the Wildcats got through, finishing off Bobby Knight’s Indiana squad, while Louisville was the one in trouble. After trailing significantly, the Cardinals edged Arkansas – coached by fairly-soon-to-be Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton — on a last-second tip-in. With both teams locked in to face each other, the pregame hype and buildup began.

Both teams, and their fans, were amped up for the 1983 Midwest Regional Final.

Media outlets immediately began to call the matchup “The Dream Game” or even, more simply, “The Game.” The players did their best to try and avoid providing any potential bulletin board material, but to limited effect. Wildcats backup forward Bret Bearup acknowledged the “thing that must not be said:” “Anybody on either side who says he hasn’t been thinking about this matchup since the tournament started is just saying what he’s supposed to say so he won’t get in trouble. I say what I’m not supposed to. I’ve been dreaming about this game. This is great stuff. ‘Course now I’m in big trouble.”

But while Louisville entered the game ranked No. 2 to Kentucky’s No. 12, at least one major participant felt that it was the mighty Kentucky program that had more to lose.

“The pressure is on Kentucky,” Louisville coach Denny Crum said in advance of the game, before needling the Big Blue Nation a little bit. “Our record is better the last 10 years. They have a chance to carve into our success.”

By tip-off, all the pregame discussions now past, everyone was ready. Tickets were at a premium and 12,489 showed up at the University of Tennessee’s Stokely Athletics Center for the game. Always eager to join a spectacle, Kentucky governor John Y. Brown wore a unique half-red, half-blue blazer to the affair.

Once the game finally got underway, it was Kentucky that broke quickly from the gate. Led by deft outside shooting by Jim Master and Derrick Hord, who each hit three early shots, the Wildcats raced to an early advantage, reaching a 23-10 lead just 10 minutes into the game. Louisville was playing tight, missing 16 of its first 20 shots.Crum’s roster was stacked, though, and the Cardinals’ talent began to show itself at last. Brothers Rodney and Scooter McCray found space underneath the basket and between them scored 12 of Louisville’s next 16 points. When Charles Jones hit a lay-up just before halftime, the UK lead was down to just seven, 37-30.

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The Kentucky Algebra: Solve For Eight

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 20th, 2011

The massive amount of alumni, donors and fans of basketball science who support Kentucky care very much about mathematics. In particular, the accumulation of positive numbers.

Two years ago they celebrated being the first school to reach the number 2000 in basketball wins. A few days ago they cheered loudly as they unfurled the fourteenth colored banner allowed to decorate the huge research lab of Rupp Arena. The program also celebrated the three days worth of intense computation that resulted in an increment of Southeastern Conference Tournament titles.  While elated with the progress, none of these are the specific answer desired by Kentucky Math fans. They want the ultimate answer: An eighth NCAA National Championship.

Kentucky’s researchers were making incredible breakthroughs in the 1990s. Dr. Rick Pitino used several years of research in Full Court Pressology to finally solve for six. Before he could apply the same formula to solve for seven he left for a professional position for a storied firm in Boston. Dr. Tubby Smith immediately used many of Dr. Pitino’s components but mixed them with Intense Defense Limits stretching from one to suffocating. The result: Seven. As time passed Kentucky supporter’s error tolerance level was reduced to near-zero and Dr. Smith took his research to Minnesota. Dr. Billy Gillispie‘s early theories were promising but his science unsound.

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SEC Morning Five: 10.19.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 19th, 2011

  1. Jason King wrote his first article since joining the ESPN crew on what he knows about college basketball. He wrote, “The Big East will (again) be the country’s top conference this season, but I’m more excited about the SEC. Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt are Final Four contenders, and no team intrigues me more than Mississippi State.” I couldn’t agree more. It will be a great season to be an SEC basketball fan.
  2. Gary Parrish of CBS turned in his 50 player ballot for the Naismith Award. Lots of SEC love as ten conference players made the list, including five Kentucky players. The SEC list consists of Brad Beal (Florida), Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), JaMychal Green (Alabama), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt) and Marquis Teague (Kentucky). If you love lists, and since you’re reading one now I bet you do, you will love the excellent coverage at as they have also unveiled a list of the Top 100 players in college basketball and a Preseason All-America list. Of course, the SEC is well represented on both with Vandy’s Jenkins placing as a first team All-American. However, it was Jeff Goodman’s placement of Terrence Jones on his fourth team All-America list that sent mobs of angry Kentucky fans Goodman’s way. Goodman placed Thomas Robinson of Kansas on his first team over Wildcats Anthony Davis and Jones. I ask you, loyal SEC fans, is the best power forward in the country from the SEC?
  3. Not sure whether to add ESPNU to your cable package? Well, ESPN released its television schedule with more than 1,450 regular season and Championship Week games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN4… sorry, I got carried away. The release is a 23-page document with 11,122 words in it, so make sure you have a couple of hours to go through it all. Just want the highlights? College Gameday will visit the SEC once in Nashville for the Kentucky/Vanderbilt matchup on February 11. Super Tuesday returns with a Big Ten/SEC doubleheader on ESPN, and an ACC/SEC doubleheader on ESPNU. That should make your decision on ponying up a few extra bucks for the U a little easier. Finally, the SEC Tournament semifinals and championship games will be televised nationally on ABC.
  4. It was initially believed that Florida may violate NCAA rules by using two basketballs during game action to ensure they have enough shots to go around for their ball-hoggin’ backcourt, but a Gainesville Sun article says Billy Donovan is impressed with the unselfish behavior of his guards. He pointed out that point guard Erving Walker has taken the third fewest shots on the team in the early going of practice. Donovan said, “he has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio has been really good. I think he has an idea of the challenges in front of him.” Donovan has challenged his point guard to lead the SEC in assists this season. We’ll have to wait and see if Walker accepts that challenge, but he seems to be distributing the ball well in the early going.
  5. Kentucky fans who have been clamoring for more Dribble Drive Motion Offense will finally get their wish. On his website, John Calipari wrote his six observations from the first six days of UK’s practice. In number six, Cal wrote, “this may be a Dribble Drive team. Instead of using it 30 percent of the time, we may use it 70 percent of the time. They’re reacting quickly and they’ve got a feel for what’s going on. They’re doing pretty good with it.” The outspoken head Wildcat has never been one to hand out too much praise for his Wildcat teams, especially early on, but he’s been nothing but positive to start out this year. He even agreed with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall when Hall said that this year’s team is “way ahead of where we were a year ago.” That’s great news for Cat fans who will be quick to remind us that last year’s Final Four team wasn’t too shabby.
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Two Minutes’ Hate: The RTC Rivalry Series — Kentucky vs Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

One of the best things about college basketball is the rivalries. Whether rational or not, rivalries usually manifest themselves through the players and fans of the involved schools in the form of true, unmitigated disdain for the other side. Because we love making trouble, and with apologies to Orwell, we give you the Two Minutes’ Hate, a series of posts in which we give fans/bloggers/writers of both sides of a given rivalry a chance to vent about the other side, with minimal but identical prompting from us. We encouraged them to cut loose and hold nothing back, and we’ll be doing this with various rivalries throughout the year as such games arise. If you want to nominate a rivalry or even offer a submission, email us at And remember, the published opinions are those of the respondents and not necessarily those of RTC, heh heh.

Today’s Rivals: Louisville and Kentucky

Coaches Crum And Hall Might Be Smiling Here, But BOY, Do These Two Teams Hate Each Other.

First, speaking on behalf of the Cardinals, we have Mike from the excellent Louisville site Card Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter here. And you should, if for no other reason than because his bio describes him as the “fourth-ranked Chaucer scholar in the Ohio Valley.”

1. In your opinion, what was the Ville’s greatest win over UK?

The 1983 “Dream Game” without a doubt.

Even after Louisville had established itself as a national power, Kentucky refused to play them. The game finally happened in ’83 when the teams were paired in the same region and met in the Mideast Regional championship on March 26 in Knoxville. Despite a buzzer-beating shot by Jim Master to send the game into overtime, the Cardinals ran off 14 straight points in the extra period and prevailed, 80-68.

The U of L community erupted and quickly the governor, legislators and even the boards of trustees at both universities began to talk about a series between the two. Shortly thereafter, the announcement was made that Louisville and Kentucky would begin playing each other annually.

The game played a huge role in making the rivalry what it is today. If Louisville loses that day, the two might still not be playing annually.

2. What was the most painful loss?

Probably the ’04 game where Louisville led by 15 at half and as many as 18 before the Cats came all the way back and won it on Patrick Sparks‘ free-throws with less than a second left. Sparks walked twice. Neither were called. Louisville won the game.

Still, we went to the Final Four a few months later and UK didn’t.

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Morning Five: 11.23.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009


  1. UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic was arrested and subsequently suspended by head coach Ben Howland for felony assault stemming from an incident at a Hollywood concert last month.  This is the second physical-force-related arrest for Dragovic in the past two seasons, as he was also arrested on suspicion of shoving his girlfriend during an argument last year.  He was not prosecuted for that allegation, but we’re starting to have serious reservations about the talented Serb’s anger management.  UCLA is not off to a good start at all this season, including numerous injuries, a loss to Cal State Fullerton, and now an arrest to one of their top returnees all within the first five weeks.
  2. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird headlined this year’s inductees to the National Collegiate Hall of Fame, along with several other luminaries of the game, including former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcote, Oklahoma star Wayman Tisdale, all-time NCAA leading scorer Travis Grant, former UCLA/UAB coach Gene Bartow, USA Basketball leader Bill Wall, and Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA.
  3. To that end, here’s a Bird/Magic story you probably don’t already know.  From the KC Star, the two players were invited to compete on a World Invitational Tournament team coached by then-national championship Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall.  Astonishingly, both players were put on the second string by Hall, and shockers, neither of them particularly liked that.  Read about the whole story at the above link.
  4. A lot was written after the Syracuse second-half bombardment of North Carolina on Friday night, including here.  Some of the better pieces were from Jeff Goodman, Seth Davis, and Adam Zagoria.
  5. In case you missed it, the #1-rated power forward in the class of 2010, Tobias Harris, committed to Tennessee at the end of last week.  The 6’8 player who likes what Tyler Smith has been able to accomplish in Knoxville is the highest-rated player UT has ever signed.  He also considered Maryland, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville and West Virginia.
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