Kentucky fans are going to have to put in the extra work to gin up some pregame passion for Kentucky’s men’s basketball meeting with Ohio State on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic.
Thad Matta’s Buckeyes will bring a 5-5 record to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for their meeting with No. 4 Kentucky (9-1). Among its five defeats, OSU has losses against mid-majors Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. It rates a pedestrian 201st in the NCAA’s official RPI.
So for UK backers to get jacked about facing Ohio State, you will have to look to the past. Believe it or not, few programs have caused more pain to Kentucky Wildcats basketball teams than The Ohio State University.
In the 1960s, the Buckeyes were to Kentucky what Connecticut has been in the 21st century — the March Madness team that just keeps breaking UK hearts.
On my list of the seven programs that have caused Kentucky the most March heartache, Ohio State rates high.
Bringing the UK pain: In 1959, Louisville bounced UK in the NCAA Tournament round of 16. The two teams did not play again until 1983, when the Cardinals staged a furious rally to defeat the Wildcats in overtime in the so-called “Dream Game” in the 1983 NCAA round of eight.
Kentucky’s answer: Has been fierce. Since that 1983 U of L win, Kentucky has won all three NCAA tourney meetings (1984, 2012 Final Four, 2014) between the archrivals.
6. North Carolina
Bringing the UK pain: Twice, Dean Smith’s Tar Heels beat Kentucky one victory short of the Final Four, in 1977 and 18 years later in 1995. Each time, Kentucky’s heartache was salved by the Wildcats going on to claim the NCAA crown the following season.
Kentucky’s answer: In the 2011 East Region finals, John Calipari’s No. 4-seed Wildcats upset Roy Williams and the second-seeded Tar Heels to earn UK’s first Final Four trip since 1998.
Bringing the UK pain: No school has beaten Kentucky more often in NCAA Tournament action than Marquette (6-4). But of those six wins (one of which, 1971, was a consolation game), only one was a soul crusher. In the 2003 NCAA round of eight, Dwyane Wade delivered a triple-double and helped Tom Crean’s Golden Eagles snap a 26-game UK winning streak.
Kentucky’s answer: UK has lost its past three NCAA meetings (1994, 2003, 2008) with Marquette. The Wildcats did beat the Milwaukee school in the round of 32 while en route to the 1975 NCAA championship game.
Bringing the UK pain: In 1980 in the round of 16, Duke ended the career of beloved Kentucky guard Kyle Macy — in Rupp Arena, no less. In 1992 in the East Region finals, Christian Laettner’s famous overtime buzzer beater ended the careers of the beloved UK senior class known as The Unforgettables.
Kentucky’s answer: UK is 2-0 against Duke in Final Four contests (1966 semifinals, 1978 championship game). The Wildcats won the most recent NCAA meeting, rallying from 17 points down in the final 10 minutes to beat Duke in the 1998 round of eight.
3. Michigan State
Bringing the UK pain: Michigan State has shaved three Final Four appearances off Kentucky’s résumé, beating the Wildcats in regional finals in 1957, 1999 and 2005 in double overtime.
Kentucky’s answer: UK’s only NCAA victory over MSU came in 1978 when Kyle Macy led a second-half rally that allowed the Wildcats’ eventual national championship team to escape Magic Johnson and Michigan State 52-49.
2. Ohio State
Bringing the UK pain: On five occasions OSU has ended Kentucky seasons in the NCAA Tournament. Three times in the 1960s, Ohio State beat Kentucky in region finals, meaning one victory short of the Final Four. Two of those round-of-eight defeats (1961 and ’68) came in Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky’s answer: In the 2011 NCAA round of 16, Brandon Knight’s game-winning jumper eliminated the No. 1 overall seed Buckeyes in a March Madness thriller. Until that shot, OSU was a perfect 5-0 against UK in NCAA tourney games.
Bringing the UK pain: UConn (3-0) is the only team in men’s basketball history that has played Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament more than once and never lost. The Huskies are also the only team with more than one victory over Kentucky in the Final Four, having beaten the Wildcats in the 2011 national semifinals and the 2014 NCAA finals.
Kentucky’s answer: There hasn’t been one, which is why Connecticut, not Ohio State, is No. 1 on the “causing Kentucky pain” list.
Kentucky’s NCAA enemies
The list of teams that have more than one men’s basketball NCAA Tournament victory over UK:
NCAA Tournament wins over Kentucky
NCAA tourney record vs. UK
Overall record vs. UK
6 (1955, ’69, ’71-x, ’94, 2003, ’08)
5 (1945, ’61, ’62, ’68, ’87)
3 (2006, ’11, ’14)
3 (1957, ’99, 2005)
2 (1980, ’92)
2 (1959, ’83)
2 (1977, ’95)
2 (1952, ‘85)
2 (1981, 2004)