Kentucky Wildcats count on fans to provide flames in basketball rivalry with Louisville

Willie Cauley-Stein - photo by Tammie Brown |
Willie Cauley-Stein – photo by Tammie Brown |

The clash of Wildcats and Cardinals is much more complex than a difference in animal. It is a strange juxtaposition: a rivalry so bitter for the that two elderly men would assault each other during dialysis treatment over one’s allegiance to red rather than blue — true story — yet carried on by players who hardly understand why all the fuss.

Both the University of and basketball programs recruit nationally, which means better talent but also fewer on the rosters who can ever fully understand the fervor — fever even — that it stirs across the state when they play. As they prepare for Saturday’s renewal of the rivalry, none of the Wildcats’ top eight scorers and none of the Cards’ top nine is from

.“Until you’ve been here for a year or you’ve lived in this state, you don’t know about the rivalry,” said sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein, who is from Kansas. “It’s a problem, it really is, because it’s so serious to people, and if you don’t take it serious, then you don’t care, pretty much. That’s what they think.”

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