Kentucky never scheduled in-state schools under coach Adolph Rupp, and former assistant Joe B. Hall dutifully followed suit when he took over as coach. Gov. John Y. Brown stepped in following their matchup in the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional finals, now known around the state as The Dream Game, and told the schools to start playing each other.
Kentucky currently holds bragging rights in the annual in-state rumble, winning 18 of the 29 games, including a 69-62 victory at Rupp Arena on Dec. 31.
"All you hear from the fans is, 'Don't lose to the Cardinals. Whatever happens, Big Blue Nation better not lose to Louisville,'" recalled former Kentucky guard John Wall.
Fan is short for fanatic, after all.
There are some fans who can view the rivalry with detachment, however. Or at least reason.
Coke and his wife, Denise, sat behind Stahl, his brother Jim Joe, and their brother-in-law, Jamie Solomon, at open practice Friday, and security didn't need to run interference. When the Cardinals took the floor, one of those standing to applaud was Ken Berkins, proudly wearing his Kentucky blue after flying all the way from the Middle East to see his beloved Wildcats in the Final Four.
"My family would probably hang me if they saw me clapping for Louisville," Berkins admitted. "But we're just unbelievably excited to have two teams from Kentucky in the Final Four."
Solomon even said he'd root for Louisville if the Cardinals beat Kentucky on Saturday night.
"But I'm a transplant," Solomon quickly added, as Pat Stahl shook his head in disgust.
Try as they do to rise above the nitpicking, even Calipari and Pitino can't resist the fray.
Both coaches were reminded Friday about a comment Calipari made back in October about Kentucky's uniqueness, which sure sounded like it was a slap at Louisville.
"There's no other state, none, that's as connected to their basketball program as this one," Calipari said then. "Because those other states have other programs."
Asked about that exact comment Friday, Calipari said, "I didn't say that," explaining that what he meant was Kentucky fans are scattered across every inch of the state while Cardinals fans are more concentrated in and around Louisville.
"We sleep with the enemy in Louisville," Pitino acknowledged. "We have many Louisville men and women that marry into Kentucky families. It's very difficult to swallow, to see that happen."
Pitino seemed to try to give Calipari the benefit of the doubt, saying the third-year Kentucky coach hasn't been around long enough to really appreciate the depth of the rivalry.
But Peyton Siva, Louisville's guard by way of Seattle, has been around the same amount of time as Calipari, and he sure seems to get it.
"For outsiders, I'd just say wear white," he said, "so you can blend in."
vs. Kentucky (36-2)
4 p.m., TV: CBS Radio: 1320 AM
Ohio State (31-7)
vs. Kansas (31-6)
6:45 p.m., TV: CBS Radio: 1320 AM
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