Sunday, March 25, 2012

NCAA Déjà Vu

A not-so-guilty pleasure.
Anthony Davis, 2012
Pervis Ellison, 1986

As I watched this weekend's games, I realized that Kentucky's Anthony Davis, a freshman, reminded me a lot of Louisville's Pervis Ellison—a long, lanky, freshman center who often wore a t-shirt under his jersey—and he lead the Cardinals to the championship in 1986.

It's likely that Louisville and Kentucky will meet in the final four (a monster rivalry), and while I'm a diehard Cardinal fan, I'm a little uneasy about the Davis-Ellison similarity—like Ellison in '86, Davis has a weird coltish power (and I don't see it in Gorgui Dieng).

Backstory: in the late 70s and early 80s the Kentucky Wildcats were still haunted by the ghost of Adolph Rupp, the Jim Crow of college basketball. By that time the Louisville Cardinals were thoroughly integrated, fun to watch, fast-paced, and generally disliked by Kentucky knuckle-draggers.

In a nutshell:
In contrast, Crum took Louisville’s progressive nature to the next level, recruiting far more blacks than whites. And he let his teams play with soul. Huge afros were perfectly fine with the coach. Dunks and alley-oops became the program trademark. The 1980 national championship team claims to have popularized the high-five.

Some Kentucky fans responded by calling the Cardinals the “Black Birds.”

Down the road in Lexington, Joe B. Hall’s teams played with a more corporate approach that sometimes bordered on repressed. As the Wildcats were fulfilling huge expectations by winning the 1978 national championship, that forced march was characterized in the media as “the season without celebration.”
from here

As the racial make-up (and type of play) has changed for Kentucky, so has the ideological terms of the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry.

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