Kentucky vs. Gonzaga: Why John Calipari must green-light The Kennel as host of matchup in 2022-23 season

The Kentucky males’s basketball program held a quickly-put-together telethon on Tuesday evening that coach John Calipari tweeted Wednesday morning raised practically $3 million to assist communities in the state devastated by flooding that has killed greater than three dozen folks. That’s the massive and superior headline. But a secondary story additionally emerged from the occasion: Kentucky and Gonzaga — two of the most effective manufacturers in school basketball — have agreed to a two-game collection starting this season.

It was a neat scene.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few joined the telethon remotely by video, with an attractive lake in the background, and first advised the Kentucky gamers he was proud of them for utilizing their celeb to assist of us in want. He and Calipari then went forwards and backwards for a couple of minutes, having enjoyable with one another, earlier than informally saying that their packages will meet in every of the following two seasons.

What this implies is that the staff ranked No. 1 (Gonzaga) in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 will play the staff ranked No. 4 (Kentucky) in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 on Nov. 20, in any other case identified as the Sunday earlier than Thanksgiving. Last 12 months’s Preseason National Player of the Year, Drew Timme, might be on one aspect, whereas final season’s National Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe, might be on the opposite. Far as non-league matchups go, it is exhausting to do higher than this — even when enjoying on an NFL Sunday is not precisely best.

Either approach, whereas Calipari and Few had been speaking, I could not assist however discover that whereas Few mentioned “it could be superior” to deliver his staff to Rupp Arena in the 2023-24 season, Calipari by no means particularly acknowledged his Wildcats would play on the McCarthey Athletic Center — AKA The Kennel — in the 2022-23 season. Instead, the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach simply stored saying that UK will play Gonzaga in “Spokane.”

This is a exceptional distinction, in the event you perceive the historical past.

As you seemingly know, Calipari coached at Memphis for 9 seasons earlier than he left to take the Kentucky job in March 2009. After Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and most of the opposite good packages left Conference USA following the 2004-05 season, his Tigers had been set as much as dominate that league the identical approach Gonzaga was dominating — and remains to be dominating — the West Coast Conference. With this as the backdrop, Calipari and Few determined to play one another yearly as a result of Memphis and Gonzaga wanted one another, largely for a similar causes.

It was an awesome collection.

Memphis and Gonzaga performed 4 occasions earlier than Calipari left for Kentucky — twice in Memphis, twice in Spokane. But each video games in Spokane had been performed off campus on the downtown Spokane Arena, which is not Gonzaga’s dwelling enviornment. Obviously, Few wished these video games at The Kennel. Calipari would not play there, nonetheless, and his rationalization in opposition to doing so was hilarious. He kind of argued, behind the scenes, that Memphis should not need to play on Gonzaga’s campus as a result of Gonzaga did not need to play on Memphis’ campus — by no means thoughts that Memphis … DOES NOT HAVE AN ON-CAMPUS ARENA .

The Tigers’ dwelling enviornment is FedExForum in downtown Memphis.

The Zags’ dwelling enviornment is The Kennel on campus.

In an ideal and truthful world, if Gonzaga was going to play in Memphis’ dwelling enviornment, Memphis also needs to be keen to return the favor. But Calipari stored insisting that each one video games ought to be in downtown Memphis and downtown Spokane. Eventually, Few mentioned … no matter. So the Memphis-Gonzaga collection alternated between FedExForum and Spokane Arena as Calipari by no means took his staff to The Kennel. His Tigers went 4-0 in opposition to Gonzaga in that stretch. Those two information are probably, if unlikely, associated.

And now right here we’re once more.

I used to be advised late Tuesday that the positioning of the Nov. 20 recreation between Gonzaga and Kentucky technically stays undetermined. Once once more, clearly, Few needs Calipari to deliver his staff to The Kennel. Once once more, unsurprisingly, Calipari is resistant. This is one thing that’ll need to be hashed out in the approaching months.

My hope?

I hope Few will get his approach this time, not as a result of I’m rooting for the Gonzaga aspect over the Kentucky aspect however solely as a result of I’ve lengthy insisted school basketball video games are greatest in true dwelling and street environments. Sure, Gonzaga-Kentucky can be nice at any location — New York, Las Vegas, South Dakota, the Bahamas, anyplace. But the most effective two locations on earth for a Gonzaga-Kentucky recreation are Rupp Arena and The Kennel, the latter of which is a 6,000-seat, on-campus enviornment that recreation in and recreation out produces one of the most effective environments in the game thanks in half to its cozy confines and top-shelf scholar part.

It’s an superior place and 100% the place Gonzaga and Kentucky ought to play in November. So please let it occur, Coach Cal. I get that it’d make issues tougher in your staff. Honestly, I do. But it is nonetheless the truthful factor to do and, extra importantly, the most effective factor to do in the spirit of creating the best attainable scene for what could possibly be the largest non-league recreation school basketball produces this season.

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