By BEN JACKEY
Special To One Great Season
When I was in second grade, our math teacher challenged us to a real brain-teaser. Is 999 greater than 1,111, she asked? To a child just learning the values of numbers, it seemed plausible to me that because the 9s were bigger, then yes, 999 was greater. I proudly raised my hand with all the other ill-informed children sharing the same opinion and was crushed when the other kids were awarded Jolly Ranchers. One of my fellow morons stood up and in a whiny voice protested, "If you add it all up, 999 is greater!" That made absolutely no sense. We were dumb. We were wrong.
The same misguided principles apply to all the people who were living in the drunken acid trip that was the Cornell Kool-Aid. I'm looking at you, Northeast sportswriters. I'm looking at you, Jay Bilas. I'm looking at you, certain contributors to onegreatseason.com. That must’ve been some powerful s***.
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Maybe it's the journalist in me, but I'm a big fan of facts.
+ Fact: Cornell stacked up gaudy numbers against bad competition. Its lowest three-point percentages of the season came against Kansas and Syracuse. What's amazing to me is that every UK detractor pointed to its weak schedule as a reason the Wildcats eventually would falter. Yet, they chose to ignore this against the great white, Big Red hope.
+ Fact: Kentucky is one of the best defensive teams in the country. UK is long. UK is quick.
+ Fact: Kentucky is clearly the better team.
Yet, the "experts" turned a blind eye to this. Not just sophomoric bloggers and their mindless followers, but real analysts and columnists at major media outlets in many parts of the country. It was portrayed as "good vs. evil." The great white crusaders standing up for all that is right against the dark knights and that Kentucky swagger. Plus, it was perpetuated by folklore. There's the great story about UK players two years ago calling Cornell a “high school team” during the NCAA Tournament. Really? An 11th-seeded Kentucky team that barely made the tournament and lost in the first round was so arrogant about its 13-loss season that it mocked Cornell? And made sure to say it loudly enough for fans to hear? In the news business we used to say, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."
Then, the irony: A friend told me, "You’d better rethink your arrogant take on Cornell." I found that ironic considering all the condescending elitist attacks the entire state of Kentucky endured over the last four days. I get it. John Wall cannot solve a Rubix cube in three minutes. I get it. Cornell kids are smart. I get it, Dan Shaughnessy, some Kentucky fans can't spell. But, as DeMarcus Cousins said with his Alabama twang, "It's not a spelling bee."
Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote and Chris Wroblewski may score a 9 out of 10 on a pop quiz, but three 9s aren’t greater than the Cats' four 1s in Wall, Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson. Consider yourself schooled by a graduate of the Kentucky edyoucashun system. Class dismissed.
Jackey is a die-hard Kentucky fan living in Louisville.