University of Louisville

Mark Story: UK-UofL games are not season defining — but beating your rival does matter

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress and Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell battled for a loose ball during the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal in March. Kentucky won and eventually advanced to the national title game.
Kentucky forward Alex Poythress and Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell battled for a loose ball during the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal in March. Kentucky won and eventually advanced to the national title game. Herald-Leader

Fast-break points from a Royal visit to meet The King:

21. Jeff Walz. The Louisville women's basketball coach has now lost four in a row and five of the last six to Kentucky. After the past three of those defeats, Walz has made a point of noting that losing a rivalry game does not a season define.

20. What history says. After Kentucky's 77-68 win at Louisville on Sunday, I decided to review the history of the UK-U of L rivalry in the three most high-profile sports.

19. Football. The team that has lost the UK-U of L game has rebounded to go to a bowl game five times — UK in 1999 (Music City Bowl) and 2006 (Music City) and U of L in 1998 (Motor City), 2002 (GMAC) and 2010 (Beef 'O' Brady's).

18. Men's basketball. Four times, the team that lost the UK-U of L regular-season game has gone on to the Final Four — and twice that team has won the national championship. In 1997-98, UK fell to U of L but won the NCAA title. In 1985-86, 2004-05 and 2011-12, Louisville lost to UK but still went to the national semifinals — and won it all in '86.

17. Women's basketball. The team that has lost the Cats-Cards grudge fest the past two seasons, Louisville, has advanced deeper in March. However, in each of the five years prior, the team that won the Kentucky-Louisville game also fared best in March Madness.

16. Moral: Walz is right that losing a rivalry game does not define one's season. But it's wrong to therefore contend that winning the UK-U of L game is not important.

15. Why rivalries matter. The competitive friction of Auburn-Alabama, Duke-North Carolina, UK-U of L is what gives college sports its unique flavor.

14. A coach's responsibility. For a college coach, one of the main priorities is to beat the team(s) your fan base most detests.

13. Enhanced by social media. In a world of message boards and Twitter, the extreme elements of fan bases have infinite digital capacity to rub success in their rivals' faces. As a result, the need for coaches to hold their own in rivalries is greater than it has ever been.

12. Better to win championships. No rational person would pick a win over an archrival over a national championship. But fan bases want coaches to deliver both.

11. Rajon Rondo. On Sunday, the former Kentucky guard had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Boston Celtics past the Washington Wizards, 101-93.

10. The amazing Rondo. It was Rondo's 31st career triple-double (21 in the regular season and 10 in playoff games) and second of 2014-15.

9. Better than The King. If you want to fully grasp how impressive Rondo's feat is, consider: Since he recorded his initial NBA triple-double in Dec. 2008, he has three more than LeBron James.

8. College football playoff. I understand the selection committee not wanting to reward Baylor's anemic non-conference schedule, but I do not see how you can take the champion of the lackluster Big Ten (Ohio State) over Big 12 co-champ TCU.

7. The uproar. I would prefer an eight-team playoff, but no matter how much you expand, there will always be controversy over who gets excluded.

6. The Big 12. It needs a championship game, and the way to get there is to go back up to 12 teams by adding Cincinnati (to pair with West Virginia) and BYU.

5. Louisville-Georgia. The Belk Bowl matchup between U of L and UGa is compelling to see Mark Richt's Bulldogs go up against their former defensive coordinator, U of L's Todd Grantham.

4. WKU-CMU. The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl meeting between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan is compelling because it's in the Bahamas.

3. Western a winner. In terms of quality of locale, WKU and CMU are already the biggest victors of bowl season.

2. Sara Hammond. After Louisville saw a double-digit lead erased Sunday to lose to UK for the third straight season, the U of L senior forward appeared to be in tears. Barring an NCAA Tournament meeting between Cats and Cards, the ex-Rockcastle County star will end her college career 0-4 vs. Kentucky.

1. Bounce-back rules. On Twitter Monday morning, @SaraHamm10 wrote: "The sun came up this morning! I'm alive, healthy & blessed to play the sport I love! "It's not whether u fall but whether u get back up"

Pretty good words to live by, those.

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