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Calm Down Bozich, UK-Louisville Is Not Better Than Duke-UNC

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood will find out about the nation's best rivalry soon enough.
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood will find out about the nation's best rivalry soon enough.
Jim McIsaac

The nonsense du jour is comparing the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry to Duke-UNC and arguing that that rivalry is better.

Obviously that's a great rivalry too. You'd have to be nuts not to recognize it, like you'd have to be nuts not to recognize the intensity between Auburn and Alabama in football, Clemson and South Carolina and Ohio State and Michigan in anything, Arizona and Arizona State, which is as heated and as ugly as any rivalry anywhere.

We'll still take Duke and Carolina, for several reasons.

First, in a real rivalry, you don't dodge your opponent for a quarter of a century, which Kentucky did when the Wildcats refused to schedule Louisville.

Second, in the Commonwealth, for the most part Louisville is a red island in a sea of blue. Louisville has fans outside of town, but it's not like the base is split significantly.

And third, most of Kentucky's players only ever play Louisville once anymore. The only institutional memory of the rivalry is with the coach and bench warmers and, of course, fans.

And finally, in the Triangle, there's no escaping it. Coach K's and Dean Smith's kids famously had the same piano teacher. You hear about it at the bus stop when you're a kid. In high school, everyone takes sides. And when you go to work, you're going to sit next to someone who strongly dislikes the school you prefer.

Married couples watch the game in opposite ends of the house to protect their marriage.

Dean Smith got married in Duke Chapel - and his Cadillac got dented while he was doing it.

You hear it in church, in the elevator, and it's endless. In a good year, there can be three games Rick Bozich of the Louisville paper ignorantly calls it "an NBA playoffs mini-series."

That's not it.

It's a chance for greatness and redemption. Duke's 1988 "Triple Crown" over UNC was an absolute passion play.

Remember the 1992 game, the Bloody Montross game? Remember Gerald Henderson's collision with Tyler Hansbrough?  The Heyman game, where Art Heyman and Larry Brown personally took the rivalry to a completely different plane?

Kentucky-Louisville is at a high point now because Rick Pitino at Louisville is an immensely proud man. John Calipari is nearly as proud, but he's also brittle and prone to bizarre fears. While he was with the Nets, his character flaws really hurt the team.

And there is one final element of rage driving this rivalry currently and that's Kentucky fans who have never forgiven Pitino for taking the Louisville job in the first place.

Can this rivalry maintain its intensity with these two icons who thoroughly dislike each other gone? Maybe, but maybe not, too. It remains to be seen.

In our case, Duke-UNC will endure as it has for decades. The only appropriate comparison is Cincinnati and Xavier. It's on a lower level than Kentucky-Louisville, but it has every bit of the intensity and drama of crosstown rivals who throw themselves at each other like two drowning men fighting for a board.