LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas beat Kentucky in overtime, 90-84, Saturday night in what should go down as an instant classic simply because when the Wildcats and Jayhawks play overtime at Allen Fieldhouse, no matter how they get there, it's a classic.
This game had drama and two magnificent performances—KU's Wayne Selden poured in a career-high 33 points, and Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis put the Jayhawks guards on skates on his way to 26 points and eight assists. It had two of the game's coaching giants, once graduate assistants under Larry Brown at KU, squaring off in this building as head coaches for the first time. It had ESPN's College GameDay in attendance and 16,300 screaming fans approaching the decibel level where pain begins.
"It was crazy," Kentucky senior Alex Poythress said. "The loudest atmosphere I've ever been in."
But here was the only issue with Saturday's collision of the bluest bloods in college basketball: Kentucky had a "20" next to its name, and Kansas had a most generous "4."
These were not the usual Goliaths we're used to seeing, and while the game lived up to the hype, it was hard not to leave wondering if those two teams can really get to Houston in April.
And that's a shame. Because parity sucks.
College basketball is at its best when some combination of Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UCLA, Indiana and North Carolina top the rankings and end up playing in April.
Give me four No. 1 seeds in San Antonio in 2008. Bill Self and John Calipari on the sidelines Monday night, coaching a bunch of future pros.
Hide the women and children when Connecticut and Butler brick their way through a title game.
That, unfortunately, is what we could be headed for this season when the Final Four returns to Houston, the location of that dreadful final back in 2011 between UConn and Butler.
This is the year of "no great teams"—a narrative that Oklahoma might have a legitimate beef with—but it was obvious watching Kansas and Kentucky on Saturday night that this isn't what we're used to seeing from these programs.
The Jayhawks are having such a hard time keeping speedy guards such as Ulis in front of them that Self had to run a gimmicky triangle-and-two that he usually saves as a curveball in March.
The Wildcats were lost when their 5'9" point guard could no longer carry them.
"We were relying on one guy," Calipari said. "You can't play that way."
Many fans might get a smirk across their face when they realize the Wildcats are so beatable that Auburn can take them down, but it's pretty easy to turn the channel, isn't it?
When Calipari has his platoons of pros? You can't look away.
Calipari and Self each spent much of Saturday's postgame gushing about the greatness of both historic programs and their fans.
"I love the place," Calipari said. "The campus, if you're a college student and you're in the Midwest—really, anywhere—this is a college campus, a college life, a student life. The pride they take in this basketball program, and Bill's taken it to another level, but it's always been here."
Self was asked if he would entertain playing Kentucky every year, trading off home games in the seasons the teams don't play in the Champions Classic. "I'd be good with that," Self said. "... I would love to do it."
That's great to hear and would be must-see television every year. They should make it happen. And other blue bloods should do the same.
But what these coaches didn't spend Saturday night talking about was how both teams are close to greatness, how both teams are built for March and could see each other again on the final night of the season.
This is the year where anything could happen, and Ulis and Jamal Murray just might be good enough to get hot and get on a run. The Jayhawks are pretty darn good when they play together and Selden is scoring like he was Saturday night. Maybe that gimmicky triangle-and-two that helped Kansas go on a surprising run to the title game in 2012 can work its magic again this year.
But instead, we could be headed for a Final Four with football schools such as Oklahoma, Iowa and Texas A&M.
No offense to those programs. Compelling stories. All are fun teams to watch and are legitimately better than Kansas and Kentucky this year.
And that's a damn shame.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.
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