Kentucky-Louisville is as fierce as it gets.
Growing up in ACC country, I never thought I’d see myself type that. But, as they say, “I gotta keep it real”.
Sure, Duke-UNC is intense and is arguably the best rivalry in college basketball. Hell both schools are less than 10 miles from each – a short, straight drive down highways 15 and 501. The fans of both teams work with each other. The Battle of the Blues: Royal Blue and Light Blue. Dick Vitale slurping Duke at every Duke-UNC clash on ESPN. Most of all, players for both teams play pickup ball against – and with – each other every summer. There is a lot of mutual respect to go around.
However, Kentucky-Louisville is just flat-out nasty. The players hate each other. The fans really hate each other. And the coaches despise the hell out of each other. After all, what other rivalry has one fan punching the other during dialysis treatment?
There is no neutrality in the state of Kentucky. You are either red (Louisville) or blue (Kentucky). It divides family members. Word on the street there are family members who are not talking to each other this week. Friendships had been ruined in the UK-UL rivalry.
There is lot of trash talk among family members and friends who are Duke and UNC fans, but not to that level of bitterness. I never heard of Duke fan punching UNC fan, let alone in a dialysis joint. To me it’s more about bragging rights than bitterness. And it didn’t take years for one to FINALLY play the other in basketball.
There is a bit of history between UK and UL. Kentucky refused to play Louisville for years until 1983 – and that was because it was during the NCAA Tournament. Louisville was seen as the “scary big city” in the state, and was ahead of the curve in integration. In fact, legendary coach/bigot Adolph Rupp refused to recruit black players until he had to do so while kicking and screaming. Despite all of that, it didn’t truly become a rivalry until Louisville begin winning national championships. Louisville was suddenly on par with Kentucky in basketball, and it’s led to intense recruiting wars ever since.
And now that they are going to play each other in the Final Four, the state of Kentucky is going to be nuclear. Hell I would just love to be at the Final Four in New Orleans to see the inevitable carnage between fans of both schools.