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Kentucky (11) @ Louisville (22): Now For Wrath, Now For Ruin, And The Blue Dawn!

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This is the official open game thread for the Kentucky Wildcats @ Louisville Cardinals. If you don't know the game particulars by now, visit UKAthletics.com, because today we won't be wasting the space here repeating them. There's just too much to say, and anyone who doesn't know the details of this game by now must have been hiding under a rock somewhere in the remote reaches of the Serengeti.

Every year, Kentucky and Louisville fans point to this game. It is the Super Bowl of Kentucky, and even the NCAA tournament pales by comparison when it comes to generating passion among the fans. Yes, we all get excited come tournament time, but this game is a uniquely Commonwealth of Kentucky affair. Only on this day and for this game do we drop all pretense, and let our mutual animosity shine through unabated and largely unfiltered. Card and 'Cat fans may despise each other during the year, but on this day, the full measure of that loathing is unleashed.

North Carolina and Duke is a comparatively bloodless and mild affair, the two teams meeting multiple times every year with little on the line but a bit of pride. Kentucky-Louisville is one-and-done -- lose this one, and you are at the mercy of your bitter rivals for bragging rights for the rest of the year unless a rare meeting the NCAA tournament happens. That's a long time for regret and recriminations, which is why the coaches, fans, and multi-year players take this game so seriously. The two teams as currently constituted will never go at it again, and the one chance at glory will haunt the loser for the rest of the season with the winners providing helpful reminders of the result at every available opportunity.

No matter what the outcome, both coaches have tried to back away from the perceived violence of last year's affair in Rupp Arena, and rightly so. Fans do not want to see MMA on a basketball floor, nor see players get technical fouls for running their mouth or physically attacking the other team. What fans of both schools want to see is a well-contested game that their team wins by as many as possible.

For this game, it is a tale of two teams with similar styles, similar players, and the breaking in of a brand new arena for the Louisville Cardinals. All the games in the KFC Yum! Center so far have been the equivalent of a warm-up for this one game, this one moment. This is the only game in that building that will matter this year until late in the season, and even then, all the passion in all those games combined will not match what will be expended on this one contest. If fan passion could be seen in the visual spectrum, the KFC Yum! Center would glow so brightly today it could be seen from space, and in full sunlight.

This game is unique. In fact, it is a national treasure in this writer's opinion. Every college basketball fan in America should find the time to sit down and watch Kentucky-Louisville, because you only get one shot at it, not two or three. This is the game which often brings out the best in the teams and the worst in the fans, which is how bitter rivalries often are. What makes this year even better is that both these teams have vulnerabilities which can be exploited as well as strengths which have led to both to ranked status.

So here we go, basketball fans. No more analysis. No more "what ifs." No more asking questions of the stars. It's time to put on the armor of battle, head to the arena (if you are fortunate enough to have tickets) or plant yourself in front of the television with your UK regalia and war paint with a sufficient store of adult beverages, snacks, and coverings for the walls and furniture to receive the odd thrown object without damaging your home. It's time to charge out and meet the enemy in battle, and may the best team with the blue uniform win.