Dick Harmon: Utah sports fans have nothing on the passion of Louisville-Kentucky hoops fans

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

"I've never been in a place in my life where they're so passionate," Calipari said Tuesday of Wildcat fans. "Yet, they've got a soft heart. They're not mean and nasty. They're not The Miserables."

What makes Saturday even more dramatic is Louisville's Rick Pitino, who previously coached at Kentucky. He and Calipari put on a good act, but in reality they've been sniping at each other for years behind the scenes as they mark their territory in the state through recruiting, fundraisers and camps.

Pitino, who lost to Calipari earlier this year, knows how to set up Kentucky fans because he knows their hearts. He has roamed the sidelines at Rupp as a UK coach and felt the fanatical blood boil. He's used this week to prime the pump and "stir up the paranoia" that resides deep in the soul of UK faithful.

What if UK lost to Louisville?

He throws that out there as if it were a poisonous snake hiding under a rock.

"There will be people at Kentucky that will have a nervous breakdown if they lose to us," Pitino told reporters right after the Cardinals won the NCAA West Regional.

"You've got to watch. They've got to put the fences up on bridges. There will be people consumed by Louisville."

Calipari acknowledges the emotional stakes but is trying to calm the setting before the storm that will come on Saturday.

"These people are crazy," said Calipari. "But it's what you want in our profession. But when you're in it, you're like, 'These people are crazy.' They're into this, and it's fun. What I'm saying (to Kentucky fans) is just worry about us. Don't worry about Louisville."

Especially if you are hooked up to a dialysis machine.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

Twitter: Harmonwrites

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