LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky and North Carolina should never stop this series.
For those that want college basketball to be relevant in December, on a college football championship Saturday, I give you this game.
You think they care about Florida-Alabama here? The crowd is terrific -- an electric atmosphere and a sea of blue -- in a game between the two winningest programs of all time, both seeking win No. 2000 this season.
This is one of the many reasons why John Calipari came to Lexington from Memphis. You don’t get this kind of atmosphere too many other places.
The early part of the game lived up to the hype. North Carolina jumped out early, with its size and experience (yes even though the Tar Heels are young too) to a 9-2 lead. And then Kentucky freshman John Wall -- and let’s not fool ourselves the top pick in the June NBA draft -- took over for a 16-0 run that included two game-changing plays. Wall flushed a dunk and then came down with a reverse, contorted layup in traffic.
Wall fed Darius Miller for 3s, pushed tempo, and ensured the Wildcats got back in the game and elevated the crowd.
Had Larry Drew II not made a soft baseline jumper the Wildcats may have gone on a Kansas-like run (36-0? No, I kid on that one, this is hardly Alcorn). It was spinning out of control for Carolina during a 28-2 UK run over a few-minute span.
Maybe it was too much to ask of North Carolina to play Michigan State and Kentucky in the same week, especially with the latter game being on the road. But the Tar Heels are hitting a team on a mission here at Rupp.
One thing is certain: there were at least five NBA prospects starting the game and more coming off the bench. These two teams have the potential to meet again in Indianapolis.