Louisville Cardinals rule Rupp Arena

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The NCAA Men’s Division 1 basketball championship goes into full dribble today as the round of 64 commences. Of course, I’m rooting for Louisville to go all the way. But some folks in Kentucky don’t feel the same way:

“You know how last year they said they hoped we’d win after they lost? UK fans don’t hope they win,” Kentucky fan Roby Thompson said, glumly, as he watched the Cardinals practice. “I don’t even hope they have a good practice today, to tell you the truth.”

And that’s why the Wildcats’ fans suck. Their team wasn’t that great this year, either. They were the No. 1 seed in the NIT tournament and got knocked out of the first round. Coming of the previous year’s national championship, that’s like the Mount Everest of suck.

The rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville is college basketball’s equivalent of a civil war. Only 70 miles separate the two schools, but they may as well be worlds apart for their pedigrees and locales. Kentucky is the winningest program in NCAA history, and its eight national titles second only to UCLA. Even with two national titles, Louisville will never be mistaken for a true hoops blue blood.

Kentucky’s campus is in the picturesque hill country, while Louisville sprawls across several blocks downtown.

OK, first of all, if it’s a Civil War, UofL is the Union and UK is the Confederacy. (Although there is an annoying monument to the confederacy in the middle of the road going through the Louisville campus. But there’s also a civil rights monument on Cardinal Boulevard, so it sort of evens out.)

I live six blocks from the UofL campus. I’ve been to the UK campus. UK is in Lexington, it’s not out in the woods. And Louisville isn’t the grand megalopolis that UK fans pretend it is. But UofL does have amazing athletic facilities. It’s too bad the men aren’t playing at the Yum Center, because that’s an NBA quality arena.

wbbbThe UofL women (pictured above) are there for the first round of their tournament, which begins Sunday. (Nice arena, huh?). In college basketball, the UofL women have the third highest attendance in the country behind Baylor and Connecticut. They’re a five seed in the Midwest Region this year.

But there is something rewarding about the men’s team going into Rupp Arena (the Wildcats’ home court) for their first round matchup. Winning there would just twist the knife a little more. And winning the entire tournament (Louisville is the No. 1 seed overall) would be like a chainsaw on the UK psyche.

(For a local look at the UofL men’s team go to cardchronicle.com.)