Why Kentucky vs. Louisville Is the Best Rivalry in NCAA Basketball

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Why Kentucky vs. Louisville Is the Best Rivalry in NCAA Basketball
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone that has been around NCAA athletics very long knows that the state of Kentucky is absolutely crazy about the basketball. The game is as ingrained in the state's fabric as bluegrass, bourbon and horse racing.

It might also be easy to assume that the state's love affair with hoops is solely a byproduct of the historic success experienced by the University of Kentucky basketball program. Considering the fact that The Big Blue Nation will travel just about anywhere to see its team play and follows the school with a passion that borders on (and often crosses the line into) insanity, it's probably what a lot of folks outside of the Bluegrass State think.

But the Wildcats aren't the only game in town. The Louisville Cardinals (as much as I hate to admit it) have a storied tradition and incredibly passionate fanbase, as well. One needs to look no further than their state-of-the-art YUM! Center arena to see just how dedicated Kentucky's largest city is to its team and the game itself.

As you might expect, UK and Louisville's close proximity to each other has bred an intense instate rivalry...just as you would expect to happen in any state with two major universities that have successful programs. But the hatred between the Wildcats and the Cardinals runs much deeper than simply being close to each other.

Unlike many of college basketball's other great rivalries like Duke and UNC or Indiana and Purdue, UK and Louisville do not play in the same conference and only have one scheduled meeting each year. Their animosity is not simply born of familiarity or battling year after year for the conference crown; it starts and ends with basketball bragging rights in a state that is more religiously devoted to basketball than anything else.

Add in some incredible games and bizarre circumstances (like one legendary coach leading both teams), and you easily have the college game's best rivalry. 

Let's take a look at some of the greatest (and weirdest) moments that make any matchup between these two programs a must-watch game for the entire country.

All stats via ESPN.com 

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