Louisville has many rivals.
The most obvious of these is the Kentucky Wildcats, just 80 miles down Interstate 64. To describe the amount of hatred between these two teams is nearly impossible.
You can argue the Duke-UNC rivalry all day long, but I don't believe I've ever seen two teams despise each other as much as U of L and UK do. It's the kind of rivalry that family members disown each other over.
There are several reasons for the U of L-UK rivalry. It's an in-state rivalry, so most fans have the option to pick one or the other. It also splits the state in half geographically as most of Eastern Kentucky roots for UK while most of Western Kentucky roots for Louisville.
Then there's that whole Rick Pitino thing.
Cincinnati is also a rival of Louisville. For as long as anyone can remember, these two teams have been in the same conference, dating back to the 1970's when these teams were both in the Metro Conference. They've played each other in one sport or another for most of the 20th century.
The Memphis rivalry has all but been deserted. After Louisville left Conference-USA to join the Big East in 2005, the two teams haven't played each other in basketball since. It's a shame because right now both programs seem to be at or near the top of their games, and it would make for a great bout between two heavyweights in the world of college basketball.
Now there's Marquette.
It's an odd rivalry, but due to the level of competition between these teams throughout the past decade, it's nearly inevitable. The contention is growing by the season. I don't know if there is a basketball coach that drives Louisville fans up the wall more than Tom Crean.
Looking at the surface, you wouldn't think they would be rivals. For one, they're far away geographically speaking. They've been playing in the same conference since the mid-1990's but that's only about 15 years; it's not an entire century full of competition.
So why do these two teams hate each other so much?
When you start to look deeper, it becomes obvious. Both programs are legendary and were led by renowned coaches in Marquette's Al McGuire and Louisville's Denny Crum. Both employ future Hall of Fame coaches now in Tom Crean and Rick Pitino. And both have national championships under their belts (Marquette won in 1977, Louisville won in 1980 and '86).
That's nothing though. You wouldn't really understand unless you've watched these teams play each other over the past decade.
Half a dozen games have come down to buzzer-beating shots. Enough harsh words between players, coaches, and fans to fill entire notebooks. Both programs have been successful in recent years, hanging around the top 25 polls. And both teams have advanced to the Final Four in recent years (Marquette in 2003 and Louisville in 2005).
Louisville fans still cringe when they hear the names Brian Wardle, Dwayne Wade, Steve Novak and Travis Diener. Marquette fans can't stand to hear about Reece Gains, Francisco Garcia and especially Wisconsin-native Jerry "Bleepin" Smith.
It's a rivalry for a new day and age, between two programs that are longing for the success that they once had over a quarter of a century ago. Though neither school is the other's biggest rival (you'll never hear a Louisville fan tell you that they look forward to the Marquette game over the Kentucky game), the games they've been playing prove they sure are trying to be.
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