Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team Tops NCAA Tourney Squads in Merchandise Sales
The University of Kentucky men’s basketball program has enjoyed ample on-court success since its 1903 inception, as its athletes have helped it to claim eight national championships, more than 2,200 victories and 30 Southeastern Conference Tournament titles, among many standout statistics. Set to meet UCLA Friday in a ballyhooed NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 matchup, the Wildcats will take to the FedExForum floor not only as the heroes of Big Blue Nation, their rabid fan base, but also merchandise enthusiasts, as they sit atop the rankings as this season’s top seller.
Online retail behemoth Fanatics has the Bluegrass State squad in the ascendancy, with a Forbes article considering the placement surprising since coach John Calipari’s unit has not received an amazing amount of hype as a contender despite its 31-5 mark and a roster replete with immensely talented contributors. The piece, however, acknowledges that the South Region’s second seed has enjoyed the top spot since the beginning of the year and supposes that its late-season success, which included third-consecutive runs to the regular season and conference tourney crowns, helped to solidify the distinction, as increased television exposure yielded more interest in merchandise.
The amount of units it has helped to peddle will not concern the young group when it commences action in Memphis, though, as it will be seeking redemption, having suffered a 97-92 home loss to the Bruins Dec. 3. If Calipari’s troops topple their third-seeded foes, they could encounter North Carolina, which frequently rested right behind Kentucky as the merchandise king this campaign, for a berth in the Phoenix-situated Final Four.
While the Wildcats obviously enjoy immense regard in their home state, Forbes also found that supporters in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia gleefully gobble up all things Big Blue. That quartet contains three states that field long-time rivals for the vaunted program, as the Tennessee Volunteers and Georgia Bulldogs try to scratch the Wildcats twice a year in league play and the Indiana Hoosiers annually face them in non-conference action. No matter the sales tallies, one can presume that Calipari et al would not mind if another team were to take the top merchandise ranking as long as they are the ones cutting down the nets at Phoenix Stadium come April 3.