University of Louisville

Mark Story: It's true – North Carolina is basketball capital, with Kentucky lagging well behind

In its Dec. 1 edition, The Wall Street Journal boldly declared the state of North Carolina "basketball capital of the world."

"With only three percent of the U.S. population, the Tar Heel state dominates the sport at every level" proclaimed a headline that ran above the story.

When the WSJ listed places that could potentially rival North Carolina for hoops supremacy, Kentucky wasn't even mentioned.

Well now. I would love to rise with a full-throated objection to the claim of Tar Heel hoops superiority over the commonwealth. At least one Herald-Leader reader and one H-L boss suggested that I do so.

Problem is, when you look at the facts, it's not even close. As a basketball state, North Carolina is kicking our butt.

Men's college hoops

Kentucky's record: Schools in the commonwealth have made 22 all-time Final Four appearances spread among three universities (I am counting Western Kentucky's 1971 Final Four trip even though it was subsequently vacated by the NCAA because of rules infractions). Our state has nine NCAA titles, seven by Kentucky and two by Louisville.

What's been done lately: Not much. So far in the 21st century, the commonwealth has one Final Four trip — Louisville in 2005. Last season, UK did beat North Carolina (the school) in the race to be the first college program to 2,000 all-time wins.

North Carolina's record: Schools in Carolina have combined for 38 all-time Final Four trips spread among five schools (North Carolina 18, Duke 15, North Carolina State three, Wake Forest and Charlotte one apiece). North Carolina schools have 11 national titles — North Carolina five, Duke four, N.C. State two.

What's been done lately: A whole lot. In the 21st century, North Carolina (the school) has made four Final Four trips and won two titles (2005 and '09). Duke has made three trips to college basketball's final weekend and also has claimed two NCAA crowns. Mike Krzyzewski's squad is ranked No. 1 again this season.

Advantage: North Carolina

Women's college basketball

Kentucky's record: Schools in the commonwealth have produced four Final Four teams (Western Kentucky three, Louisville one) and no national titles.

What's been done lately: WKU, which in the 1980s and '90s was the dominant program in our state, has fallen off. Led by the remarkable Angel McCoughtry, Louisville advanced to the national title game in 2009. Long seen as a sleeping giant in the sport, Kentucky (the school) has finally shown signs of awakening. Last season, UK went to the NCAA tourney elite eight and is ranked No. 8 in the country this season.

North Carolina's record: Two schools, Duke (four) and North Carolina (three), have combined for seven Final Four appearances. Carolina won it all in 1994.

What's been done lately: Five of the state's seven Final Four trips have come in the 21st century. Duke is ranked No. 5 and North Carolina No. 14 in this week's AP poll.

Advantage: North Carolina

Pro basketball

Kentucky's record: The old Kentucky Colonels (1967-75) were one of the most successful franchises in the American Basketball Association and won the ABA title in 1975. Yet when the NBA agreed to absorb four ABA franchises in 1976, the Colonels were left out.

What's been done lately: Efforts to bring relocating NBA franchises such as the Hornets or Grizzlies to Louisville early this century were killed by ineffective city leadership and the political efforts of forces aligned with University of Louisville sports. This year, the city of Louisville has opened an NBA-worthy municipal arena — but it has a lease with U of L that appears to have been written to specifically prevent pro basketball from returning to the commonwealth.

North Carolina's record: From 1969 to '74, the Carolina Cougars were an ABA franchise that played in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh. In '74, the Cougars were sold and moved to St. Louis. In 1988, the city of Charlotte was awarded an NBA franchise with owner George Shinn. After initial success, Shinn had some messy personal issues that helped the team fall from favor. The Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002. The NBA considered Charlotte such an important market that it awarded the city another expansion team. The Bobcats began play in 2004-05.

What's been done lately: Last season, the Bobcats were 22nd out of 30 NBA teams in attendance (15,824 a game) in a season when the team made its first-ever playoff appearance.

Advantage: North Carolina.

In-state player development

Kentucky's record: As I've written before, the state that gave basketball Ralph Beard, Wes Unseld, Clem Haskins, Dave Cowens, Darrell Griffith, Rex Chapman, Rajon Rondo etc. ... seems to produce less hoops talent with each passing decade.

What's been done lately: Amazingly little. Rivals.com has ranked the top 150 players in the recruiting classes of 2008-12. Of those 750 slots, a whopping six have been filled by high school players in Kentucky. In the Class of 2011, there are three — Chane Behanan (Bowling Green); Zach Price (Jeffersontown); and Ryan Taylor (Western) — and all of them moved to the commonwealth from out of state in the last two years.

North Carolina's record: The list of Bob McAdoo, David Thompson, Walter Davis, Cedric Maxwell, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty, Chris Paul and John Wall speaks for itself.

What's been done lately: Of those 750 slots in the Rivals top 150 of 2008-12, the state of North Carolina has supplied 56 players. Some of their top players moved into their state, too, but 56-6 is ridiculous even allowing for the fact that North Carolina (population of some 9.4 million) is far larger than Kentucky (4.3 million).

Advantage: North Carolina

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