Don't believe ESPN. Carolina-Duke isn't the best rivalry in college hoops. Kentucky-Louisville is.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Sometimes ESPN wraps all 17 of its channels around a story and then they shake it like a tambourine. Perhaps you have noticed.
Red Sox-Yankees. Tiger Woods, decades after his last major championship victory. That left-handed kid who played quarterback at Florida.
Then there is the other story that lights up my keyboard every college basketball season: The tall tale that Duke vs. North Carolina is the greatest rivalry in college basketball.
Louisville vs. Kentucky is more compelling, ferocious and decisive.
Duke and North Carolina not only live eight miles apart, they live in the same league. They play Feb. 12, March 8 and maybe one more time in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
That's not a rivalry. That's an NBA playoffs mini-series.
There's no do-over in the U of L-UK rivalry. You win, you own Tweetdeck for the rest of the season. You lose, you have to smell the ugliness of your meltdown for 364 days.
Unless you meet again in the NCAA Final Four.
Somebody get Christian Laettner on line 32. Ask him this: Which two programs have met on that Final Four stage?
Simply because the folks in Bristol, Conn., keep screaming that Carolina-Duke Is The Best Rivalry In College Basketball doesn't make it so. It makes me wonder why ESPN keeps ignoring its own research.
The TV ratings numbers that show that Louisville has been the top-metered market for college basketball telecasts for 11 consecutive years. Any market can have one great year. Try having 11.
It isn't close. Louisville's Nielsen number (4.5) last season was substantially better than the runner-up (3.1 by Greensboro, N.C.).
The Fuss Factor is simply higher here. Folks have more reasons to fuss. When the call-in lines go quiet in July, all you have to do is compare the two programs' recruiting or league affiliations. There is instant angst when you mention guys like Rick Pitino, Kenny Payne or Wayne Turner who have wandered across enemy lines.
Sticking with Carolina-Duke as The Rivalry is so 2010, which happens to be the last time either one of those lordly programs won a national championship.
Kentucky and Louisville reign as the Twin Spires of the game, with the Cardinals hoisting the 2013 NCAA championship trophy to match the one Kentucky carried out of New Orleans in 2012.
I don't believe either program -- or coach -- is finished. John Calipari came to Lexington determined to prove he could do things better than Rick Pitino, who has responded by proving he can do things better than Calipari, who needs to show he can respond to Pitino's spirited response.
There's a story that when Calipari interviewed for the Kentucky job in a Chicago hotel room in 2009 that one line that he used to sell himself as the only guy for the position is that it wouldn't be long until he had Pitino waking up in the middle of the night worrying about him.
One of Cal's pals said it this way: They were coming to Kentucky to take control of this state and that if Pitino needed to be "steam-rolled," then look out for the steamroller.
Cal signed John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague (ouch!), beat Pitino and Louisville four straight and won his national championship.
Nobody steam-rolls Rick Pitino. He didn't get to the Basketball Hall of Fame -- or get his name hung in the rafters at Rupp Arena -- by conceding an inch to any coach, even one that collects McDonald's all-Americans like golf tees.
One season after Calipari won his first national title, Pitino beat Kentucky and then won his second NCAA championship – and became the only coach to win one at two schools.
He delivered in a way that had Calipari waking up worrying about him in the middle of the night -- with living, breathing seniors and juniors, guys who were actually on campus more than nine months.
If Kentucky was going to be a "players first," program, then Pitino quickly branded Louisville as the place where the program ruled. The Cardinals play for the name on the front of their jerseys, not the names on the back.
That is Pitino's pitch. Can anybody guess what he's talking about?
The fussing continues Saturday in Rupp Arena. StubHub says you won't be able to get inside for less than $194.25. Make that $3,479 if you prefer to sit in row BB, Section 31 – prime real estate at center court.
Calipari needs to win to stop Pitino from appearing to have a better way. Pitino needs to win to keep Calipari's young team from celebrating its first signature victory.
College basketball fans have already won: They're enjoying the best rivalry in the game.