Bluegrass battle lines divide state
Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 7:00 pm
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — This Bluegrass State rivalry runs deep, and the divide is wide.
Just 70 miles apart, Lexington and Louisville are worlds apart when it comes to college basketball. Come Saturday when the Cardinals and Wildcats meet at the Final Four in New Orleans, a berth in the national title game is just the beginning.
Here, the game is likened to a civil war.
Pick a side: Wildcats or Cardinals. Rupp’s Runts or the Doctors of Dunk. Dan Issel or Wes Unseld. John Calipari or Rick Pitino.
“If the excitement and frenzy and turbulence that’s been stirred up in Kentucky this week could be harnessed, we could solve our energy crisis,” Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Basketball fans from Kentucky have been waiting their whole lives for this game.”
This is the grudge match to end them all.
It’s the fifth time the schools will meet in the NCAA tournament — the two sides have split the four previous meetings — and it pits Louisville coach Pitino against one-time friend and now frosty foe Calipari. Not to mention Kentucky freshmen phenoms Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who have been steady in taking the Wildcats to the top, vs. a ragtag flock of Cardinals who’ve won eight straight with a rotating cast of mostly unknowns such as Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng.
The Cardinals (30-9) lost this year’s matchup vs. the Wildcats (36-2) 69-62 on Dec. 31.
The fan bases are about as different as they can be, and Pitino is one of the few who knows what it’s like on both sides of the aisle.
He coached Kentucky for eight years, bringing the ’Cats back to the pinnacle of greatness with an NCAA title in ’96. He’s been at Louisville for the last 11 years and is heading to his second Final Four with the Cardinals.
“It’s two different entities, really, it’s two rabid fan bases,” Pitino said.
That was oh so clear this week when two senior citizens duked it out at a Georgetown dialysis clinic.
A 68-year-old Kentucky fan and 71-year-old Louisville fan were arguing Monday about who will win Saturday’s game when the discussion quickly got out of hand.
Georgetown police Lt. Robert Swanigan says the Kentucky fan flipped off the Louisville fan, prompting the Cardinals fan to punch him in the face. Though police were called, Swanigan said the Kentucky fan declined to file charges.
The fight likely wouldn’t surprise Kentucky coach Calipari.
Published in The Messenge 3.29.12