I’ve said this before on this site that for most of my life I would much rather have beaten Tennessee than Louisville, both in football and basketball. Living in Louisville means I get a good dose of the great UL fans, which somewhat lessens the passion I have against the Cards. Of the course the basketball rivalry has gotten to such levels over the last 5 years that it’s hard to say that anymore on the hardwood, but in general, I hate Tennessee much more than I hate Louisville. And the reality is that despite the passion of the UK-UL rivalry, the battles against Tennessee have probably had more of an impact on Kentucky’s basketball program than any other program in the country. Why do I believe that? Take a look at these stats:
-UK’s 151 wins against Tennessee are their most against any opponent (10 more than Vanderbilt)
-UT’s 68 wins against Kentucky are the most defeats to any opponent (22 more than any other)
-UK has played UT in 15 different SEC Tournaments
-UK has played UT in 7 SEC Tournament title games (UK 4, UT 3 in those games)
-UK and UT have played 47 games decided by 3 points or less
-UK and UT have played 14 games decided by 1 point
Those are just a few stats that shows the impact this rivalry has had. UK fans have seen more joy and more pain facing Tennessee than any other series in school history. Unfortunately, Tennessee has never been able to keep a consistently strong program or we would likely have no question who UK’s chief rival is in the SEC. There have been times, such are Ernie and Bernie or Bruce Pearl where UT has challenged UK for a few years, but things always seem to fall off.
Maybe Rick Barnes gets Tennessee to where it competes with Kentucky on a yearly basis. It seems to be a fanbase that will get behind a winner in basketball, much like Arkansas. But neither program can seem to keep it up. Either way, last night’s battle was just another chapter in what could be argued the most impactful rivalry in UK history.