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For the commonwealth, men's 2012 NCAA tourney was time to shine

state dominated 2012 tournament from start to finish

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 22, 2012 

UK players celebrated amid a stream of confetti after beating Kansas on April 2 in New Orleans to claim the school's eighth basketball national championship.

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The commonwealth of Kentucky likes to fancy itself as the men's college basketball capital of the United States. In 2012, for three glorious weeks during the NCAA men's hoops tournament, Kentucky's claim was true.

In 2012, four Bluegrass State teams — Kentucky, Louisville, Murray State and Western Kentucky — made the men's NCAA tourney.

Four Bluegrass State teams secured tournament victories.

Two Bluegrass State teams — Kentucky and Louisville — made the Final Four.

One Bluegrass State team, John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats, cut down the nets as NCAA champions.

The greatest NCAA tournament experience ever for the state of Kentucky looked and felt like this:

A Kentucky team was the talk of the tournament's first night. With President Barack Obama and his guest, British Prime Minister David Cameron, looking on in the University of Dayton Arena, Western Kentucky staged a miraculous rally from 16 points down with 4:51 left in the game to defeat Mississippi Valley State 59-58 in the First Four.

Three Kentucky teams — Western, UK and Murray — got to play NCAA games inside the commonwealth in the city of Louisville's KFC Yum Center.

Three Kentucky teams — UK vs. WKU; UK vs. U of L — got to play tournament games against each other.

Two Kentucky teams were the dominant story of the tournament's final Saturday.

For the second time ever and the first time since 1975, Kentucky and Louisville both advanced to the Final Four in the same season.

Unlike in '75, the Cats and Cards faced each other in 2012 on college basketball's grandest stage. With the rivalry intensity amped up by the coaching history (and enmity) that exists between UK's Calipari and Louisville's Rick Pitino, the two teams turned in a hoops slugfest before the favored Wildcats prevailed.

One Kentucky team was the dominant story of the tournament's final night, with our state's most popular team, UK, claiming its eighth NCAA title by besting Kansas in the championship game.

Along the journey, the basketball zeal that gives the commonwealth some of its unique flavor was on full display.

On Twitter, the famous unibrow of Kentucky freshman star Anthony Davis shared its "thoughts" from @FearTheUnibrow. The throwback Afro hairstyle of Murray State standout Ed Daniel held court from @ed_hair.

In Georgetown, a UK fan (Ed Wilson) and a U of L backer (Charles Taylor) allegedly got into an altercation at a kidney dialysis clinic after some Cats-Cards Final Four smack talk overheated.

A UK fan (Jason Sullivan) and a U of L backer (Andy Paul) in Louisville wagered a tattoo on the outcome of Cats-Cards in the Final Four. If Kentucky won, Paul had to get a Wildcats tattoo. If Louisville won, Sullivan had to get a Cardinals tattoo.

On the night before the Kentucky-Louisville Final Four Armageddon in New Orleans, UK and U of L fans took over Bourbon Street in spirited duels of yelling and spelling.

C-A-R-D-S!

Oh yeah, well C-A-T-S!

The 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament was the state of Kentucky's own shining moment — and defining evidence that nowhere does men's college hoops matter more.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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