I've posted this a couple of times since I first wrote it, editing it each time. I truly love the UNC-Kentucky game, and it's worth putting it up one more time, as ESPN doesn't know the meaning of the word underhype. Possibly because said word does not exist, but mostly because they're ESPN.
There exists, in this day an age, a basketball game that doesn't merely live up to the hype that surrounds it, but goes virtually unnoticed despite being one of the best games of the year. I'm not sure why - the fact it's not on ESPN certainly helps, and the shiny football conference championships splayed across the networks draw away some of the interest, but it still sneaks up on me every year.
Think about this game for a second. The two teams in question aren't traditional rivals. They don't share a conference and are nowhere near each other geographically. The game isn't part of a television-generated event, dreamed up in a corporate boardroom to sell advertising minutes in early December. It doesn't have a name, or a cup, or a bet between governors, or even a particularly long history. It's blessfully free of Dick Vitale color commentary. It is simply a basketball game between two teams, one the winningest college program in history, and the other the school that will innevitably surpass them in this regard.
It's North Carolina vs. Kentucky.
Both programs deserve praise for keeping the game on the schedule eight years running now, despite the fact that a touch matchup this early isn't what a coach always wants to see. (Matt Doherty especially could have done without it, but you have to respect him for agreeing to it and never backing down.) It's always a good game for the fans, and often an important one for the teams - the past two wins for UNC has been where a championship team first truly gelled, and their freshman successors proved to folks they could compete at the highest levels. Kentucky's upset in 2002 was a coming out party for a team that would go undefeated in the SEC and make to the Final Four, as well as the first smack in the mouth for freshmen Mays, McCants and Felton.
This year won't be any different. Kentucky fallen from the heights it's fans may be used to, but the Wildcats won't have any trouble getting amped for UNC - this is a school that scrapped an entire set of uniforms because Nike picked a shade of blue a little to close to the one favored in Chapel Hill. The Heels should still triumph as this is Carolina, after all, but no matter what, it'll be one of the best games of the year.
And you won't hear a damned thing about it beforehand.
If only the Dick Vitale parts were still true.