March Madness Needs Louisville (and Maybe Kentucky) Basketball to Return to Prominence

March has not been kind to Kentucky in recent years
Final Four - Louisville v Kentucky
Final Four - Louisville v Kentucky / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

March Madness used to be the best time of the year for the state of Kentucky, from selection sunday parties to see how high of a seed our team would get, to stressing over every little detail of how far either the Louisville Cardinals or Kentucky Wildcats could go. However, as of March 22nd 2024, Louisville has won 1 NCAA Tournament game since the 2016-17 season, and has only made the postseason 1 time in the last 7 years. Not only are the Cardinals suffering, but the WIldcats have only won 1 postseason game in the past 3 seasons. Not to mention the losses to a 14 and 15 seed in the past 3 seasons.

Since Rick Pitino was fired at the University of Louisville it has been a downward spiral for Louisville basketball. After 2 semi-successful years of Chris Mack of the head coach, the next 2 years resulted in 0 tourney appearances, which resulted in Mack being fired.

Then comes the Kenny Payne era at Louisville. Do I need to explain why that was a failure?

From outlandish press conferences, double digit losses galore, to back three 20 point game seasons, on top of a 12-52 record, it was certain that Louisville would find a new coach after this season ended.

Louisville fans are acustomed to 20+ win seasons to go along with sweet sixteens, elite eights, and final four appearances. The fact that Louisville has only 1 tourney win in the last 7 seasons is truly a sight to see, and the rest of college basketball has truly been struck because of how bad Louisville has been. Not only has Louisville been bad, but they have been outright terrible the past 2 years, and they need to get back on track with this new head coaching hire.

The ACC has also been down in the last couple years, and you could also accustom that to Louisville not being in the picture. When you think of the ACC team like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, and Virginia come to mind when thinking about teams near the top.

Louisville has been dead last in back to back years in the ACC, with a combined 5-35 ACC record.

If Louisville could return to form then maybe the conference could get back to where it usually is: the best conference in college basketball.

March feels weird without Louisville involved, and it has seemingly affected the Kentucky WIldcats too. Kentucky lost to the 14 seeded Oakland Grizzlies last night, and while I was personally esctatic to see Louisville's arch rival lose to such a low seeded team, it did feel very weird to say the least.

I am used to seeing Kentucky dominate the first weekend and get to elite eights and sweet sixteens with no issue. I used to get excited when Kentucky lost basketball games, but since it has been occurring more frequently, it has lost the magic that seeing them lose had in the last decade.

There are talks that John Calipari may be let go as the Kentucky head coach, but with that 33 million dollar buyout it seems unlikely. I feel it would bode well to move on from Cal for Kentucky, giving recent tourney outcomes, and we will see what happens in the coming weeks for Calipari.

It is just a sad state that both programs have fallen so far from where they were just 10 years ago (much more Louisville than Kentucky). Hopefully Louisville can hire the right candidate in the coming weeks (or days) and maybe Kentucky will find a replacement for John Calipari too. Reinstilling the rivalry with 2 new young coaches and 2 new eras of Louisville and Kentucky basketball might be what both schools need at this point.

For now, let's just relive the last great primetime game between the Cards and Cats in Louisville.