Tuesday, December 05, 2006

State of the Bluegrass

The state of Kentucky can undoubtedly be called a "basketball state." Football in the Bluegrass is on the rise on both the high school and college levels (see Louisville's BCS game, Kentucky's bowl trip, and WKU's recent move to I-A status), but this is still basketball country. For most of the state, they fly the flag of the Big Blue Flagship in Lexington. A healthly number of Louisville folks fly cardinal red and a good number have the WKU Hilltoppers in their heart in south central Kentucky. Murray State, Morehead State, and Eastern Kentucky all have a handful of diehards, too. Most seasons, it is only Kentucky and Louisville that enjoy the little numbers next to their names when their games show up on the tube.

This season is a bit different. For the first time in a very long time, Western Kentucky garnered more votes than either UK or UL in the AP popularity contest, I mean, poll. Readers of this site know that TBB pays virtually zero attention to the polls, but this does serve as a marker since both UK and UL have been virtual mainstays for decades. After Kentucky's 13-loss season last year and their 4-3 start this season, many bluebloods in the state are foaming at the mouth. Louisville has already lost to Dayton in the early going and received zero votes in the latest AP poll. WKU, EKU and Morehead State are on the uptick this season. Murray State is rebuilding, but has cleaned up their image. UK and UL have plenty of season left to move in a positive direction, but while the rest of the state seems to be improving, fanbases for the two traditional powers are becoming restless. Both have highly paid, highly visible coaches who had subpar seasons last year and are off to less-than-stellar starts this year. UK, UL and WKU all have huge games coming up:

Kentucky: Sat., host Indiana
Louisville: Tonight vs Arizona
WKU: Wed., at Montana; Sat., host SIU

We will learn a lot about these three this week.

Last Night's GOI

--at Kansas 72, Southern Cal 62. The Jayhawks bounce back after their loss to DePaul.
--at Wisconsin 82, Winthrop 79. The Eagles missed another big upset by a hair. They have played North Carolina and Wisconsin very tough in road games. They were handled more easily by Maryland, but beat Mississippi State in Starkville. They still have trips to ODU and Texas A&M left.

Tonight's GOI
--Texas A&M at LSU. The Aggies have yet to lose, but this is their first game against high-caliber competition.
--Gonzaga at Washington State. In-state rivalry alert! This one would have a lot more luster if WASU had not lost to Utah on the weekend.
Jimmy V Classic
--Louisville vs Arizona. Louisville needs to make a statement in this game to get back onto the national scene.
--Oklahoma State vs Syracuse. Cowboys are back in the national picture and this game could establish them as a contender.