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Matt Norlander

Kentucky, the villain this tournament needs, ends Cornell's run

The Dagger

Oh

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, did you forget about this one? The game that was more anticipated than any other heading into Thursday? How quickly are attention can turn.

Yes, while we were all swept away by the drama and the overtimes in the Xavier-Kansas State game (I'm still feeling the residual effects and I absolutely love it), Kentucky put a sleeper hold on everybody's favorite underdog and kicked Cornell to the curb, winning 62-45.

The comfortable win wasn't surprising, and with it comes something definitive: For as long as Kentucky is alive in this bracket, we'll have something polarizing. That's a terrific thing.

Duke can move aside, because UK is the bad boy — the villain — of this year's tournament, and it's just what it and we need. For all the feel-good stories we've had (hope you're ready for your close-up, Mr. Farokhmanesh!), a little bit of ill will thrown Big Blue's way is not only good for television ratings and interest, it births storylines each day.

At one point in last night's game DeMarcus Cousins was purposefully thrown to the floor by Cornell center Jeff Foote. It wasn't a malicious move, but more of a frustrating one. There was no intentional foul call, and Cousins didn't look to mouth off to Foote. By being so good and, occasionally, so mouthy, the Wildcats draw the ire of their opponents and feed off of that frustration.

Cousins had a team-high 16 last night, along with seven rebounds and four steals.

But Kentucky, the clear-cut favorite now that once-on-fire Syracuse has been eliminated, is the foil to the remaining teams. Its players seem to have a bit more fun, be a bit more brash and have a bigger chip hanging just below their heads than anyone else.

And that's just fine. John Calipari is a snake? OK, let's use that to enhance this tournament's feel. College basketball never gets better ratings than when Duke is really good, and Kentucky can be the next Duke, but for different reasons.

Love them or hate them, Kentucky keeps this tournament interesting. And interesting always wins.

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