News and Tribune

College Sports

March 26, 2014

SUDDEATH: More than Elite Eight berth on the line Friday

Wildcats have owned series against Louisville of late

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — My heart will be heavy if the Wildcats fall in Indianapolis Friday night, but when it comes to who needs it the most, there’s no question that Louisville has more to lose in the latest edition of the Battle of the Bluegrass.

John Calipari is 5-1 against Rick Pitino and the Cardinals since taking the Kentucky coaching job. He’s beaten Louisville in Rupp Arena, he’s defeated the Cardinals in the YUM! Center, and he’s bested L1C4 on a neutral site during that span.

Aside from a three-point home victory in 2012 over an unranked Kentucky squad, Pitino has had little luck in knocking off the Cardinals biggest rival since Calipari arrived in Lexington.

Sure, Louisville is the defending champion, but it doesn’t take much more than a little ribbing of most Cards fans to unveil that UK is still seen as the dominant force in college basketball. Louisville is certainly near the top of that hierarchy, but it’s going to take beating big brother on the biggest of stages consistently to wrestle that title away from the Wildcats.

A victory over UK on Friday night would go a long way toward curbing Kentucky’s dominance over Louisville in recent years.

The contest will also have a substantial effect on the legacy of not just Pitino, but of Russ Smith, who  has fallen to the Wildcats in four of five attempts during his career.

Smith has had his moments against the Wildcats — and his lane splitting, gravity defying jam over Julius Randle in December was the best dunk in college basketball this season — but the record shows UK has dominated the heads up matchup during his career.

And while Kentucky certainly has had more talent — at least on paper — over the past five seasons than Louisville, Friday’s game is more of a toss up than when the teams met in the 2012 Final Four.

If the Cards lose this game, Pitino drops to 1-6 against Calipari-coached UK squads, and with the class Kentucky has coming in next year, the future doesn’t look too bright for Louisville in terms of turning the rivalry tide.

While Louisville — a team that was picked by many to win the national championship at the onset of the Big Dance — may have more to lose than Kentucky, the Wildcats and Calipari certainly have a lot to prove as well.

As a lightning rod for controversy, Calipari will always have his detractors, and all the wins in the world won’t change the opinions of some about him.

After all the doubting and second guessing, Calipari’s team has endured this season due to its lackluster play at times, he can further prove he’s an elite coach by continuing to advance in the tournament.

He can  show that’s he capable of doing what the likes of  Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self haven’t been able to do — win with freshmen and sophomores.

Calipari can also further prove that he has Pitino’s number, and that the 2012 championship was no fluke.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
College Sports
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites