If you're not from Kentucky, this next sentence will either surprise you, anger you or enlighten you. Don't say you weren't warned.
North Carolina vs. Duke is the most overrated rivalry in college basketball.
There, it's been said. You know you thought of that at least once before in your life. Now the question might be asked, if you think that's not the best rivalry in college basketball, what is?
Well here's the answer.
Kentucky vs. Louisville. And it's not even close.
The following slides will provide details as to why the Battle of the Commonwealth is the best rivalry in sports. As always, if you disagree or agree, let your voice be heard in the comments section.
Here's a list of reasons that didn't make the cut of top five reasons this rivalry is better. Just a couple of quick hits:
- Kentucky and Louisville could claim to have a better history than the two Carolina schools. Remember, Duke wasn't a national powerhouse until the 1990s.
- ESPN. We hear it all the time from the Worldwide Leader. They call the week these two schools play 'Rivalry Week' and make sure to highlight this game during the week.
- Rick Pitino. The name itself draws an ire across the Commonwealth. For Kentucky fans, you either love him for help bringing Kentucky back to the national scene. Or you hate him for leaving Kentucky and ending up at Louisville.
In Kentucky it's basketball, bourbon and horse racing. Arguably in that order.
This is unlike North Carolina, where there is professional basketball (despite what fans might think) in the Charlotte Bobcats. The Carolina Panthers are a prized NFL team.
Not to mention there are also the likes of Wake Forest, North Carolina State and a slew of mid-major programs in the state.
In the Commonwealth (don't call Kentucky a state, it may cause a fight), there is Kentucky and Louisville. Sure, Murray State, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky are Division I programs there as well, but no one is actually a fan of these programs.
There are no professional sports in Kentucky either. The closest professional team is in Cincinnati, which is about 100 miles away from both Lexington and Louisville.
The fact is, people just care more about these two teams than anyone in the country, including North Carolina and Duke fans.
It's correct in saying North Carolina vs. Duke is like the New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox.
It's correct because their rivalry is watered down by playing more than once a season in the regular season. Does anyone really care about 13 of the Yankees vs. Red Sox games, similar to how there are multiple games a year for the two Carolina schools.
With this predicament, there are many times where this not a clear 'winner' of the rivalry. What happens when the two teams split the regular season, then don't see each other in the ACC Tournament? Do fans run around the streets of Chapel Hill-Durham yelling 'We tied! We are equal teams!"?
That's the beauty of the Kentucky vs. Louisville rivalry.
There can only be one winner. With the rare exception of playing in the NCAA Tournament, you have one chance to beat your rival. Whoever wins gets the bragging rights for the year in the Commonwealth.
Sure, in the Carolina rivalry you can sweep the other team, but there's something about the simplicity of a one-game bragging rights contest that just brings the extra heat to the rivalry.
Let's take a look at some of the stories involving Kentucky and Louisville fans, as well as some things you can purchase as a fan of either school.
If you type in 'Kentucky vs. Louisville tshirts' in Google's search, here are the first two that come up:
Kentucky's version, which involves the word losers as well as domination.
By the same token, when you type in 'North Carolina vs. Duke tshirts,' it's not nearly as aggressive.
In fact, you have to scroll a little to find a Duke shirt making a jab at North Carolina. And to be frank, it's not original or that funny.
Here is Duke's version. It's simple.
North Carolina's version is a little better and more original. But, still it doesn't cut to the core like the fans of Kentucky or Louisville. There's just that pure disdain for each other.
Then there's the story from last year involving elderly gentlemen, a Kentucky fan and a Louisville fan. Now, these aren't just any two ordinary fans. These are the two fans who got into a fight at the dialysis center and had cops called.
Ed Wilson, the Kentucky fan in the fight, says he had to fight Charles Taylor because "he just happened to think U of L would beat UK."
You just can't beat that anywhere in the country.
Don't let the picture fool you. John Calipari and Rick Pitino are not friends.
Now, it wasn't always that way. As the story goes, Pitino was the one who talked his alma mater, UMass, into hiring Calipari as its coach and went as far as paying $5,000 out of his own pocket to help get Calipari signed.
Even before they became rivals in the Commonwealth, they were rivals at former Conference USA schools, when Memphis and Louisville were both in C-USA.
There's a tale that at a charity event, over a year before Calipari took the Kentucky job, the two men were together and people noticed a chill in the air whenever the two Italians were close to one another.
Even though the two claim there is no animosity between the two coaches anymore, there is that chill even to this day when the two schools meet.
Meanwhile, Coach K and Roy Williams are hardly ever talked about in this manner. Whether it's the 'southern-style' or not, there's just not that feeling of hatred even from a coaches standpoint in the rivalry.
The name of this slide says it all. There's a legit law requiring these two schools to play each other every year.
The law began in 1983, a year after 'The Dream Game,' when Louisville and Kentucky faced off in the regional final, in all places of Knoxville, Tenn.
Louisville would win the game placing them in the Final Four and help lead to an eventual national championship. But, the fact of the matter is, it took a law for these two schools to begin playing each other on an annual basis.
That's not because the two schools couldn't agree on a schedule, financial reasons or anything along those lines. It was simply because the two schools and cities hated each other so much they feared what would happen year in and year out.
I'd like to see Duke and North Carolina have a rivalry that requires that if the ACC was to break up. It just wouldn't happen.
See, in the rest of the world, there are other sports. In Kentucky, there's basketball and religion. And the religion in the Bluegrass is basketball. Just pick your side.