Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kentucky, N. Carolina Set to Paint the Town Blue

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kentucky, N. Carolina Set to Paint the Town Blue

Article excerpt

An event of such magnitude that the color crimson has been unofficially banned in sweet home, Alabama. This town has been painted blue.

North Carolina blue. Kentucky blue. The vast Southern sky is blue, too, and fans from both teams are claiming that it represents their school color.

Today's 5 p.m. Southeast Regional Final will match two blue-blood basketball programs, colliding on the way to the Final Four. Birmingham is a ticket-scalper's paradise, as fans in blue wander aimlessly about the city sidewalks in a feverish search for seats at the game. The Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center can hold only 17,458.

Kentucky vs. North Carolina.

Rick Pitino vs. Dean Smith.

"There's so much at stake right now, the coaches and the names of the schools don't matter," Kentucky's Pitino said.

Don't tell that to a nation of college hoop fans. They need no introduction to the coaches, the teams and the tradition that will be on display.

These are the two winningest programs in college basketball history with a combined 3,241 victories. They have won eight national championships, Kentucky five and Carolina three. They have made 21 Final Four appearances. These are college basketball royalty.

Kentucky (28-4) is the No. 1 seed, ranked second in the most recent polls. Kentucky has won 11 consecutive games and 15 out of 16. The Wildcats are so hot that Dean Smith is playing the role of overmatched, overwhelmed underdog. Smith cited a USA Today report that listed Kentucky as a 2-1 favorite to win the NCCA championship.

"They are a great team that has no weakness, at least none that anybody has been able to expose," Smith said. "It's the best Kentucky team I've seen."

Listening to Smith, we wouldn't know that Carolina is 27-5 and the No. 2 seed, rated fourth in the most recent polls. We wouldn't know that Smith has won 829 games in 34 seasons at Carolina and is only 47 wins behind the career leader, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp. …

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