Kentucky vs. Gonzaga: Why John Calipari must green-light The Kennel as host of matchup in 2022-23 season


The Kentucky males’s basketball program held a quickly-put-together telethon on Tuesday night time that coach John Calipari tweeted Wednesday morning raised almost $3 million to assist communities within the state devastated by flooding that has killed greater than three dozen folks. That is the massive and superior headline. However a secondary story additionally emerged from the occasion: Kentucky and Gonzaga — two of the most effective manufacturers in faculty basketball — have agreed to a two-game series starting this season.

It was a neat scene.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few joined the telethon remotely by video, with an attractive lake within the background, and first instructed the Kentucky gamers he was happy with them for utilizing their superstar to assist people in want. He and Calipari then went forwards and backwards for a couple of minutes, having enjoyable with one another, earlier than informally saying that their applications will meet in every of the subsequent two seasons.

What this implies is that the crew ranked No. 1 (Gonzaga) within the CBS Sports activities High 25 And 1 will play the crew ranked No. 4 (Kentucky) within the CBS Sports activities High 25 And 1 on Nov. 20, in any other case often known as the Sunday earlier than Thanksgiving. Final yr’s Preseason Nationwide Participant of the 12 months, Drew Timme, might be on one aspect, whereas final season’s Nationwide Participant of the 12 months, Oscar Tshiebwe, might be on the opposite. Far as non-league matchups go, it is arduous to do higher than this — even when enjoying on an NFL Sunday is not precisely best.

Both method, whereas Calipari and Few have been speaking, I could not assist however discover that whereas Few mentioned “it could be superior” to carry his crew to Rupp Area within the 2023-24 season, Calipari by no means particularly acknowledged his Wildcats would play on the McCarthey Athletic Middle — AKA The Kennel — within the 2022-23 season. As an alternative, the Naismith Memorial Corridor of Fame coach simply stored saying that UK will play Gonzaga in “Spokane.”

This can be a notable distinction, for those who perceive the historical past.

As you seemingly know, Calipari coached at Memphis for 9 seasons earlier than he left to take the Kentucky job in March 2009. After Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and many of the different good applications left Convention USA following the 2004-05 season, his Tigers have been set as much as dominate that league the identical method Gonzaga was dominating — and remains to be dominating — the West Coast Convention. With this because the backdrop, Calipari and Few determined to play one another yearly as a result of Memphis and Gonzaga wanted one another, largely for a similar causes.

It was an excellent collection.

Memphis and Gonzaga performed 4 occasions earlier than Calipari left for Kentucky — twice in Memphis, twice in Spokane. However each video games in Spokane have been performed off campus on the downtown Spokane Area, which is not Gonzaga’s residence enviornment. Clearly, Few wished these video games at The Kennel. Calipari would not play there, nevertheless, and his rationalization in opposition to doing so was hilarious. He roughly argued, behind the scenes, that Memphis should not should play on Gonzaga’s campus as a result of Gonzaga did not should play on Memphis’ campus — by no means thoughts that Memphis … DOES NOT HAVE AN ON-CAMPUS ARENA.

The Tigers’ residence enviornment is FedExForum in downtown Memphis.

The Zags’ residence enviornment is The Kennel on campus.

In an ideal and honest world, if Gonzaga was going to play in Memphis’ residence enviornment, Memphis also needs to be prepared to return the favor. However Calipari stored insisting all video games must be in downtown Memphis and downtown Spokane. Finally, Few mentioned … no matter. So the Memphis-Gonzaga collection alternated between FedExForum and Spokane Area as Calipari by no means took his crew to The Kennel. His Tigers went 4-0 in opposition to Gonzaga in that stretch. These two details are presumably, if unlikely, associated.

And now right here we’re once more.

I used to be instructed late Tuesday that the positioning of the Nov. 20 sport between Gonzaga and Kentucky technically stays undetermined. As soon as once more, clearly, Few needs Calipari to carry his crew to The Kennel. As soon as once more, unsurprisingly, Calipari is resistant. That is one thing that’ll should be hashed out within the coming months.

My hope?

I hope Few will get his method this time, not as a result of I am rooting for the Gonzaga aspect over the Kentucky aspect however solely as a result of I’ve lengthy insisted faculty basketball video games are greatest in true residence and street environments.  Certain, Gonzaga-Kentucky could be nice at any location — New York, Las Vegas, South Dakota, the Bahamas, wherever. However the most effective two locations on earth for a Gonzaga-Kentucky sport are Rupp Area and The Kennel, the latter of which is a 6,000-seat, on-campus enviornment that sport in and sport out produces the most effective environments within the sport thanks partly to its cozy confines and top-shelf pupil part.

It is an superior place and 100% the place Gonzaga and Kentucky ought to play in November. So please let it occur, Coach Cal. I get that it’d make issues tougher in your crew. Truthfully, I do. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless the honest factor to do and, extra importantly, the most effective factor to do within the spirit of making the best potential scene for what may very well be the largest non-league sport faculty basketball produces this season.

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