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5 Reasons Bluegrass Should Be Officially Awarded “Best Rivalry”

And I’m not even counting this as one of them.

Over the last few years, since Calipari has been at Kentucky, the overall strength of the programs in the state has gone way, way up.  Not only is Kentucky substantially better, but Louisville has also been at the top of its game.  Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, the two premier teams are both looking at a somewhat down year after a disappointing postseason.  UNC got knocked out by Kansas in the Elite Eight after losing Kendall Marshall, and Duke famously (and hilariously) lost their opening round game to Lehigh.  Not exactly great.

With both of those trends taking place simultaneously, you have to wonder: is this the year I-64 officially overtakes Tobacco Road as “best rivalry” to the talking heads in college basketball?

There’s been no doubt in this area that the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry has had more fire, but it seems imperative now that the Rece Davis’s of the world have to admit that Cats v. Cards is imminently more compelling than Duke/UNC.  If they don’t, well, here’s five reasons to convince anyone that Kentucky, not North Carolina, is now home to the best annual rivalry in college basketball.

(1) Last Season’s Results

Kentucky and Louisville had two of their best seasons ever, with each going to the Final Four, and UK winning the title.  Not only that, but for a solid week, nobody in college basketball could talk about anything other than those two programs as they prepared to meet each other in New Orleans.  At the same time, UNC and Duke were sitting at home watching and twiddling their thumbs.  Needless to say, the Bluegrass matchup has more momentum going into the season that could kindle some excitement early on.

(2) Pre-Season Rankings

Both Kentucky and Louisville are ranked pretty unanimously in the Top 3 nationwide.  That’s ridiculous, but it’s not new to you.  UNC and Duke, though, muddle around the 8-15 range in various polls.  That’s not terrible, but it’s not the juicy top three matchup that the Bluegrass offers.  The real kicker here, though, isn’t the four teams in question; it’s North Carolina State.  The Wolfpack is ranked #6 in both the AP and Coaches Poll, higher than both UNC and Duke.  How can the “best rivalry” in college basketball be between two schools who aren’t even the best in their state?

(3) Head Coaches

This has been consistent over the last few years, but still weighs heavily on the issue.  Four of the absolute biggest names in the game steer these teams, but the two at UK and U of L happen to have a prior history.  They also happen to hate each other.  That inspires drama, and drama always makes for an entertaining spectacle.  There are so many storylines that folks can continually draw on between Cal and Pitino, that the stories basically write themselves.

(4) Timing of Games

Once conference play starts in the early part of every year, folks know to expect good basketball.  The best teams in each league are made to play each other for real results.  Regular season championships, and post-season league seedings are at stake, and every game is big.  But in the non-conference slate, “cupcake” games are sprinkled with games against moderately challenging teams to bolster RPI. (See what I did there? “Cupcake?” “Sprinkle?” Nevermind.)  There are tons of good games on TV in February, but a good game in November or December is a diamond in the rough.  Folks are starving for good basketball, and Kentucky and Louisville always deliver.  Not to mention that UK and U of L are in different leagues, so more than just one conference is affected by the results of the game.

(5) No Chance For a Split

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: UNC and Duke each win one their two conference games against the other, and college basketball’s “best rivalry” ends in a 1-1 tie.  Fans of the teams gnash their teeth and shake their fists at each other, shouting “We’ll get you next year!” maniacally while consoling themselves in the fact that, well, at least they didn’t lose.  Meanwhile, people outside North Carolina realize that college basketball rivalries are like soccer in at least one way: ties just aren’t fun to watch.  In Kentucky, the rivalry can’t tie.  Either you win, or you lose.  Or if you’re Calipari, you win big or you win by just a few.


Understand that I’m not trying to convince anyone that UNC/Duke isn’t a great rivalry; it is.  But this year, and for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t hold a candle to the talent, fire, and passion that Kentucky/Louisville provides on an annual basis.  I hope you’re listening, Dick Vitale.

Article written by Corey Nichols

25 Comments for 5 Reasons Bluegrass Should Be Officially Awarded “Best Rivalry”

  1. Stating The Obvious
    9:06 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Well, Louisville fans suck as much as Duke fans do, that much is sure.

  2. obama
    9:11 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    But Kentucky has dominated under cal. And if Louisville doesn’t win this year, they’ll hae players like Peyton Siva who didn’t win a game against Kentucky in their full college careers.

  3. Obama the Criminal
    9:17 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Louisville actually needs to win a game for it to be a rivalry.

  4. skgammon3
    9:22 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    LOL that picture is hilarious for this article…

    Definitely agree, UNC is regressing and Duke has fallen back to consistently behind a top 15 team, but not close to being consistently top 5 again.

  5. wilDCat
    9:27 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    #3 and #4 – Even if Louisville doesn’t win, the rivalry and the game is still a lot more exciting than Duke v. UNC matchups even the pair are trading wins. We can beat the Cards 10 years in a row, but it’s still a rivalry, just one where we’re the better team.

  6. RealCatsFan
    9:32 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    That picture looks like a serious girly-man hair pulling kicking scratching spat. Are they fighting over a basketball, or a hair brush?

  7. Bob Sugar
    9:38 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    UK does not need to acknowledge Louisville as any form of legitimate sports “rival.” UK has nothing to gain in these matchups. Every win for us is meaningless, while a loss to Louisville only helps them.

  8. I voted for Kodos
    9:38 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Hey, Look! A dUKe player and a UNC player doing the slap and tickle.

  9. Obama the Criminal
    9:41 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    @5: I know, I just like sticking it to Cards fans.

  10. Juan4UK
    9:42 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    So the fact that UNC and Duke been at the top for 20 yrs (minus a few) is just supplanted over the last couple because UL/UK have got it going on the last couple? Revise the argument to Current Best, that’s fine. But, I have to admit they have had a lot higher buzz for an extended period of time.

  11. Big Whoop
    9:46 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    You give UofL far too much credit. They only beat us when we are down and that hasn’t happened the last three years. Duke has a very good chance of beating us this year, especially if we don’t improve from the exhibition games. Of course, they won’t have a shot if we meet them in the big dance. I agree with #6 – girly-man spat.

  12. Will S
    9:59 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Wow Corey, your obsession with Duke/UNC continues.

    I’ll start with this– UNC won titles in 2005 and 2009, Duke won it in 2001 and 2010. UK won it in 2012, when was the last time Louisville won it? So that means 4 combined championships this century for UNC/Duke and only 1 for UK/UL. Please dont mention Head Coaches as a tipping point for UK/UL… Coach K is the best coach in the game, period (4 titles, 2 gold medals, 11 final fours). UK/UL aren’t even in the same conference. “No Chance for a Split” — I’m pretty sure Duke and UNC have met in the ACC Conference championship like a billion times, Corey. You know, those games happen when the two “rivals” are actually in the same conference, fighting for the same trophy, playing each other 2 or 3 times per season.

    Duke 79, UK 72 — November 13th.

  13. Dr Sanjuy Gupta
    9:59 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t get all the Louisville hate. Yeah, I want to kick their ass but the city has the highest concentration of UK fans in the world. I’m 31, and the Pitino teams are some of my favorite KY squads. Ever. If you get angry when a belligerent “less sophisticated than the Jersey shore guidos” UofL fanboy call you a toothless redneck, that’s a “you problem.” It should only bother you if it’s true.

  14. Corey Nichols
    10:08 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    12 – Just drawing attention to the irony of commenting on my “obsession” with UNC and Duke when you’re trolling a Kentucky message board. U mad bruh?

  15. MyLastPostWasDeleted
    10:08 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Today, UKvsLouisville is a more exciting basketball game. But the UNC/Duke rivalry is so much more heated. I went to school at UK, but I live in Durham. There were no Louisville fans in Lexington and from what I could tell there are more UK fans in Louisville than there were Louisville fans. It is such a one sided rivalry. Duke and UNC live in the same area and the schools are only 8 miles apart. UNC is elitist and self righteous and they HATE Duke because Duke is the only school in the south east better than they are. They play twice during the year and compete for the ACC title and could play in the ACC tournament as well. Kentucky and Louisville have better teams, but the Duke UNC rivalry is was more competitive and full of hatred (although the Hipsters in Carboro aren’t helping). GO CATS! I love Kentucky and we have no legitimate rival

  16. UKeith26
    10:29 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    people outside of kentucky don’t even know who Kentucky’s rival is, and most don’t know what state Louisville is in. Louisville sucks. GO CATS!

  17. Cokely
    10:29 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Louisville is a rival of ours but I wouldn’t necessarily claim it as our big one. Our biggest rival changes from year to year based on who is good. Louisville will always be one of our most heated games but consider someone you call little brother a legit rival like UNC and Duke are rivals. Those two hate each other but they still respect each other as legit rivals. Look at the comment section as proof that until Louisville is seen as more than just little brother we won’t respect them enough to consider them our main rival even if they win a few games against us.

  18. CardFan
    10:33 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    I am going to go with the fact that Duke and UNC play each other two and on occasion three times a year, plus the fact that they are eight miles apart as the reason they are a bigger rivalry. Duke and UNC could be in the middle of losing seasons and it would still be a bigger rivalry. Yes there is a deep hatred between UL and UK fan bases but the players don’t usually feel the same way, not like with Duke and UNC. Cal is building an amazing thing over in Lexington but his top players are gone in a year, which means they only play UL once in their careers. While most Duke and UNC players average three years in school, which means they play the other school at least six times during their college careers. You must factor in the players when equating which rivalry is better.

  19. HicksPickSix
    10:54 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Nuck Corey Fickols.

  20. nassau65
    11:00 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    13. Louisville has the highest concentration of UK fans? I don’t know what you are drinkin pal, but i sure wish you’d share with the rest of us –where that info comes from. Not so.

  21. Will S
    11:00 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Damn Corey, how does it feel to have your fellow UK fans bash your cute little Duke article?

    U mad bruh?

  22. bigbluejon
    11:05 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Every article Corey writes gets worse and worse. Matt you need to hire new writers with decent material. I hate Indiana more than Louisville.

  23. UK Truth
    11:47 am November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Of course Duke/UNC has more titles. They both buy players, give out fake credit to players, fix grades and give fake jobs to players’ parents. If UK/Uofl could do that, they would win titles yearly.

  24. Kevin C.
    12:16 pm November 7, 2012 Permalink

    I vote we bring back the Pulitzer for photography, just for that epic photo alone.

  25. BGKY Dave
    3:03 pm November 7, 2012 Permalink

    Man that picture cracks my $h!t up every time a look at it. Looks like a chick fight.