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5 Reasons Why Kentucky vs. Louisville Is The Best Rivalry In College Basketball

They say familiarity breeds contempt. Kentucky and Louisville are far past the point of familiarity. To put it simply, these two schools hate each other. And I mean hate each other. There is no mutual admiration shared between the Wildcats and the Cardinals or their fans. Instead, what continues to brew each year is anger and a legitimate thirst for bragging rights.

On Friday night in Indianapolis, the ultimate bragging rights are on the line. There, the two are set to face off in the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA Tournament. Winner moves on to the Elite Eight and the loser makes the short trip back to the Bluegrass state with its tail between its legs. Louisville was a trendy pick to win it all despite being a 4-seed. But, some believe that Kentucky has a chance to win it all, with the way it is playing as of late.

The next chapter of this famed rivalry is set to unfold, so it's as good a time as any to list the five reasons why this is the best rivalry in all of college basketball. Seriously though, it isn't even close.

5. Proximity:

The two cities that these universities call home are roughly 75 miles apart. That little distance is the birth place of much of the hate between the two fan bases. Children born in Kentucky aren't asked to choose a side of the rivalry -- they are born onto a side. Much like the Alabama and Auburn rivalry in college football, a Kentucky native is a supporter of one or the other. There is no middle ground. It truly is a "civil-war" type of rivalry. The fans of these teams work, shop and even live together. That constant contact between the fans only makes the rivalry that much better.

4. Rick Pitino:

As if this rivalry needed any kindling added to the fire, one of college basketball's most iconic coaches has patrolled both benches. From 1989-1997 Pitino was the head coach of the Wildcats. There, he reached four Final Fours and won a National Championship (1996). He left Kentucky for the more money, aka the NBA, but quickly returned to the college ranks. As fate would have it, he ended up on the other side of the rivalry -- with the Louisville Cardinals.

Pitino has been the top dog in Louisville since 2001, going to three Final Fours and winning one National Championship (2013). He has had tremendous success with both teams and is greatly important to both team's history. Although, Kentucky also has itself a pretty successful coach too in John Calipari.

3. Unparalleled Success:

Louisville cut down the nets in 2013, while Kentucky did the same in 2012. Think about that for a moment. This rivalry is so stacked with talent and success that you have to go back three years to find a championship game that doesn't feature one of these two teams winning it all. Other rivalries may be fierce, but do they match up in terms of recent success? No, none come even remotely close.

But, what's incredible is that it's not just the recent success that defines this rivalry. Combined, these two schools account for a total of 11 National Championships. Duke-UNC combine for nine National Championships. Their combined success, recent and historical, is what makes this rivalry so exciting and utterly unparalleled.

2. Zero Professional Sports Franchises:

Much like its neighbor to the north, Indiana, basketball is a way of life in the state of Kentucky. It is a passion, the source of friendship, a lifelong hobby and religion all in one. There are no professional sports teams in Kentucky, and that fact intensifies the passion for college basketball state-wide. College basketball is the one unifying sport that Kentucky has. It is culturally ingrained in everyday life and is a matter of pride among its citizens.

The Wildcats have been around since 1903 and won their first National Championship in 1948. Louisville began playing in 1911, winning its first National Championship in 1980. That long timeline of history and success, which spans generations, is why basketball is so important the the state of Kentucky. And that importance, as evidenced by their impending colossal matchup, isn't going to fade anytime soon.

1. The Loyalty Of Both Fan Bases:

Often times in heated rivalries, one side claims to be the "big brother". Usually, the team that makes that claim has a visibly more loyal fan base. That cannot be said about this rivalry. A recent study conducted by Nielson named Kentucky and Louisville as the top two "local fan bases" in the entire country. It's pretty impressive that one rivalry can claim both of the top local fan bases nationwide. That graphic isn't based on opinion either, it's a statistically proven fact.

It just goes to show the immense popularity of these two programs in the state of Kentucky. Need anymore proof that this is the greatest rivalry in college basketball? If so, just watch the game on Friday night. It will be on at 9:45 PM EST on CBS. If you're not convinced after that, well then you just don't get it.