“Nowadays, it’s not as important as it was five years ago, 10 years ago, and 20 years ago. In those times, you didn’t see these kinds of match-ups. Now with the tournaments going on, you see these kinds of match-ups in exempt events or special one-day and two-day events. To me it’s still important, but it’s not what it used to be.”


Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

Head Coach Roy Williams made this comment at his pre-Kentucky press conference Thursday.

And it is true. The Carolina-Kentucky game, so steeped in tradition and so ripe with basketball royalty, is not as big. It’s just another powerhouse match-up in the long line of top programs going at it each other in the season. How tragic, right?

Oh, the good ol’ days. Oh how we long for the times when national powers rarely collided, and ravaged local competition, only stepping up in class once or twice a year before the NCAA Tournament. We miss those days, right?

Well, I don’t. I like big match-ups. All the time. Rivalries are what turn the dial up. Rivalries and top-notch showdowns are what make college sports, and really ALL sports, so special. And the more, the merrier.

Let’s be honest. We don’t watch for the Carolina-Holy Cross or Carolina-Northern Kentucky games. Well, maybe this year to see if the Tar Heels are going to show up. But that’s beside the point.

Our heart doesn’t flutter for those routine contests. And our hairs don’t stand up on our back in nervous excitement for largely irrelevant match-ups with small, undermanned programs, even though those numbers in the win column may be extra padded.

We watch for epic overtime games with two dynasties going at it, with Hall of Fame coaches barking out orders to teams laden with McDonald’s All-Americans striving to add another glorious highlight in the long head-to-head series. It’s these games that are truly meaningful.

Both programs expect wholeheartedly to emerge the victor in these showdowns. Each side knows it will have to play its absolute best or risk being run off the court. Ah, yes.

It’s not to say the magnitude of the Tar Heels-Wildcats game has diminished. I don’t think it has at all. Not one bit Just tune in to ESPN Saturday at 5:15 pm and witness the “white-out” crowd in full voice in the Dean Dome. Enough said.

No, it’s no slap at Carolina-Kentucky. It’s just a factor of there being a “Carolina-Kentucky-esque” battle going on every other week these days.

But is that really a bad thing? I don’t believe so, unless you’re just being selfish and only want Carolina to be involved in the massive collisions that grab the national spotlight.

Hold your horses, fellas. Carolina-Kentucky and Carolina-Duke still ratchet up the dial. Those babies are just as meaningful as ever. There just happens to be a few more headline acts joining them on the big stage now.

And that’s a great thing for college basketball. Kansas-Duke, Kentucky-Michigan State, UNC-Louisville. I say bring them on. Let the salivating entrees on the college basketball buffet line keep coming.

Just when you thought you were absolutely stuffed and couldn’t possibly fit one more morsel of food in your stomach, always remember…

There’s always room for dessert.