Has There Ever Been More Offseason Hype for the Louisville-Kentucky Rivalry?
Two years ago, the border of Kentucky stretched down into New Orleans. At least it felt that way at the Final Four.
There was a lot of buildup to the rivalry taking place at the Final Four for the first time. But even if the Cardinals didn't admit it publicly, there was a sense that they were just happy to be there and Kentucky winning the national title was close to a foregone conclusion. It's difficult to really hype a game that hardly felt like a fair matchup.
Still, that meeting had to be the most anticipated in the rivalry's history. Emphasis on had.
The Dec. 28 date at Rupp Arena is now the most hyped game between these two schools, and I realize the ridiculousness of stating this in May, seven months from tipoff.
But rivalries and ridiculousness go hand in hand. For instance, there are four tickets currently available on Stubhub for the Dec. 28 game. Two of those tickets are currently going for $550 a pop. The other two are going for $600 a pop. All four are in the upper level!
Unless Russ Smith decides he's not passing the ball this season or Kentucky's freshmen end up playing like the 2012-13 UK freshmen, these two teams should spend a majority of the season at the top of the polls.
Most preseason polls, in fact, will have Kentucky No. 1 and Louisville No. 2. The preseason argument for "who is No. 1?" is really only a two-team race between the schools—the defending champs vs. the recruiting champs.
The Cardinals are even deeper than they were last season and talented depth plus Rick Pitino's full-court pressure could make for a historic season. I'm even crazy enough to believe the Cardinals should be No. 1.
Kentucky's recruiting class is the best on paper in the history of college basketball. John Calipari signed six McDonald's All-Americans. He has eight on the roster, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, who DraftExpress.com projects as the 14th pick in the 2014 draft.
Has there ever been a more-anticipated game between Louisville and Kentucky?
That potential makes the Dec. 28 meeting not only the most anticipated in the rivalry's history but also the most anticipated game for the entire college basketball regular season. (Sorry Duke and North Carolina fans, but you can't really argue this one.)
For two programs with such great histories, it's surprising that two of the best teams in each program's history—which these two are expected to be—haven't met before.
A stroll through the past delivers one (almost) comparable meeting and a few missed opportunities.
- On Dec. 28, 1985, Kentucky, led by Kenny Walker, beat Louisville 69-64 at Rupp. Kentucky would go on to a 32-4 season and lose in the Elite Eight. Louisville went 32-7 and won the national title. But, according to BigBlueHistory.net, Louisville was ranked only 15th and UK was 13th at the time. (In case you haven't already, notice the date on that game.)
- In 1980, Louisville won the national title. Kentucky went 29-6 and climbed to No. 2 in the polls at one point, but the two never met that season.
- In 1975, UCLA beat Louisville 75-74 in the national semifinals. UCLA beat Kentucky in the national championship game. Oh, what could have been.
It's understandable that the excitement for the Dec. 28 game started as soon as the season finished.
If next season plays out as we expect it to, we could potentially get a second meeting like we did in 2012. In an ideal world for bourbon staters, Louisville and Kentucky will both be one seeds. Hopefully, they will be paired on opposite sides of the bracket.
And if that championship game happened, they might as well play the Kentucky state song at the Jerry Dome and send the National Guard to Kentucky.
Let the trash talk begin.
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