This one's big. Although, both coaches try- their is no downplaying this one.
Not this time.
The stakes are just too high.
When long-time rivals Kentucky and Louisville meet on Saturday night for a trip to the National Championship, the Commonwealth may very well explode. It's quite apparent that "Basketball Armageddon" has arrived in the Commonwealth. Want proof? Go to any street corner in Lexington or Louisville, and see that Final Four shirts are being sold in bulk. Head to Georgetown, KY, where even failing kidneys couldn't stop Cardinal and Cat fans from feuding ...and it's only Wednesday.
It's clear that this game is important to fans- Basketball is everything in the Commonwealth. However, What does a win Saturday mean for each program?
If Louisville wins...
Beyond the obvious bragging rights that the fan base would receive, for what may be a lifetime. Rick Pitino can forever silence critics whom have said "the game has passed him by", he would also grab his first win over in-state rival Kentucky, in three years- first with Calipari at the helm. A win here would give the Louisville faithful solstice, after a 20 year hiatus for the National title game. In a season that seemed to be a forgo conclusion to end in failure, this would complete a marvelous turn-around.
A win for Louisville would give rebirth to a possible dying rivalry. While both teams have rich histories, highly ranked teams, aside from the Billy Gillespie blunder, Kentucky has dominated the series in recent times. Louisville needs to beat Kentucky to make the rivalry more vibrant than ever, although a match-up of the two in the Final Four may have already done that.
It would also gave Louisville a recruiting edge over Kentucky. A battle that Rick Pitino has been losing as of late, with current Kentucky Point Guard Marquis Teaque being the latest example. Calipari has dominated Pitino on the recruiting trail, but he's dominated every college coach as well. A win for Louisville would go a long way in changing that.
A Louisville win would have one positive for Kentucky: a booming Lexington economy ....at least for psychiatrists. Guard the bridges...
If Kentucky wins...
There may not be more pressure on any team in the tournament to win a Championship than Kentucky. The pressure squarely sits on Head Coach John Calipari's shoulders. Deservingly so, Kentucky is the most talented team in the tournament by far.
A win here would put Kentucky in their first National Championship since 1998. It would give John Calipari his 2nd opportunity to win his first National Championship. Kentucky would continue to assert it's supremacy over "little brother" in the best way possible, avenging an Elite 8 lost to the Cardinals, which still leaves a bitter taste in the Wildcat faithful's mouths, 20 years later.
Kentucky would be one step closer to doing what they are expected to do- win a National Championship. Their is certainly more to lose, than gain, in this game for the Wildcats. Calipari has a chance to forever silence Pitino, and begin talks of canceling the annual battle between the two teams.
Much more is a stake than a spot in the National Championship, when the two schools meet-up Saturday. Pride is on the line. Pride for the Coaches. Pride for the fans. It means something more, because it can give Pitino a chance to silence his critics. It means something more, because it can give Calipari his first National title. Legacies are on the line. Championships are on the line.
One things for sure, one team from Kentucky will be in the Title game Monday night. That being said, I've got a message for that winning team...win one more.
Image courtesy of: CBS Sports