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Notes from NOLA: Why all the hate?

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UK will face Louisville on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. in the Final Four. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK will face Louisville on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. in the Final Four. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

NEW ORLEANS - By now you've likely heard the story, or better yet, the account of a fight too fitting and too appropriate to make up.

As reported first by a Louisville TV station, just a handful of days before the eagerly awaited Final Four matchup between archrivals Kentucky and Louisville, two senior citizens, one a UK fan and the other a U of L supporter, duked it out at a dialysis center while getting treatment.

"That's disappointing," John Calipari said Thursday.

But oh so fitting of the rivalry.

A disdain between the two schools' fan bases has existed for as long as the two programs have been playing basketball. It runs deep within the foundation of Commonwealth, a way of life in the Bluegrass embedded in the DNA of its citizens.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Friday the hate stems from previous "racial lines" in Louisville, a school he categorized as "the minority university." While that's up for debate (and up to other websites and newspapers to talk about), both sides can agree with Pitino that now "it's just pure hatred."

The animosity between the two fan bases has created a tension and a buildup for a Final Four game unlike anything the tournament has maybe ever seen. The other Final Four game, a matchup of two titans, Ohio State and Kansas, is hardly even being talked about.

"Right now I would say this is probably the most amped up Final Four game in college basketball history," Louisville guard Chris Smith said.

Coach Cal has downplayed the rivalry aspect of the game all week, pointing to the ultimate goal at this time of the year.

"If you win or lose, you're going to feel the same whether it's a team you played before or never seen in your life," Calipari said. "A team that's 12 miles from you or a team that's a thousand miles from you, it doesn't matter this time of the year."

Coach Cal's players, most not even from the state of Kentucky, have bought into that notion and aren't feeding into the rivalry. But they also know the fans won't follow their lead

Anthony Davis said he's already heard a fight broke out on Bourbon Street, and that was three days before the game. What's going to happen when two fan bases, arguably the most passionate in college basketball, collide with so much at stake in a town that tempts even the most good-hearted of men to sin?

To avoid confrontation, Louisville guard Peyton Siva had some advice.

"Wear white just so you can fit in with everybody," Siva said.

If nothing else, wearing white will cut down the fights in New Orleans - not that you're likely to see senior citizens at a dialysis center on Bourbon Street.

"Senior citizens fighting," Davis said, "that's amazing."

Pressure nothing new for these Cats


The thought of losing to Louisville in the Final Four is so dreadful for Kentucky fans at this point that it's become unthinkable.

For a team that was already favored to win it all one month ago, it's taken sky-high expectations and blown them out of the stratosphere. The heat may seem like it's on for the Wildcats, but they're not buying into the pressure.

"There is no pressure on us," sophomore guard Doron Lamb said. "We are used to this."

As the No. 1 team for the last couple of months at a school that only raises Final Four and championship banners, the pressure to win is just another day, "just another game" for the Wildcats.

"We've had pressure on us throughout the whole season," Lamb said. "Everybody wants us to win. Our fans expect a lot out of us."

Adding to the buildup is a Louisville team that few expected to be in the Final Four as recently as a month ago.

"We definitely feel like we're the team that's not supposed to be here," Siva said. "Nobody would have thought we'd be here."

Even though an archrival stands in the way of a national championship appearance, sophomore forward Terrence Jones said it makes no difference. Echoing his coach's thoughts, Jones said the opportunity to reach the final game of the season is the only thing that matters.

"As much pressure as it would be if it was anyone," Jones said. "It being the Final Four is pressure enough. With being the No. 1 team and having the target on our back that we have had all year, it just adds pressure as it is."

Davis' high school part of his fabric


The story of Davis' growth spurt from 6-foot-3 to 6-10 has become part of his legend. It's the heart of an intriguing story from a high school afterthought to the nation's best college player.

As the spotlight has shined brighter on Davis during the NCAA Tournament, the story of his evolution has become more intriguing by the day. Last week reporters found out he likes to draw in his spare time, and this week an Associated Press story reported that he likes magic and pranks.

Thursday provided another nugget for the legend of Davis. Speaking to a national collection of reporters, Davis elaborated on his high school, a place that didn't even have a gym.

"I did find it weird at first," Davis said. "What school doesn't have a gym? That's what I thought, like, 'This school doesn't have a gym.' In the fire escape plan, it says basketball court on it, so that didn't really make sense."

Davis attended Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, a sixth through 12th grade school made up of 350 students, according to Davis. For home games and practice, Davis' team used a local gym at Illinois Institute of Technology.

"We had to work with what we had," Davis said.

Coach Cal, while pointing out he's been blessed with a Davis clone in the past (Marcus Camby), called Davis "unique."

"How many games do you think he won as a junior, his team?" Calipari asked. "Six games. I thought they won 11 his senior year. I think they won six games. What? And the kid - this is crazy.

"The best part of it is he's on a team that we all kind of cover for each other and we all kind of make each other looked good. When he was named player of the year in one of the awards, he thanked his team. He said, 'I want to thank all of you because this never happens if it's not for all of you.' "

Davis doesn't have any regrets of how everything has worked out.

"Perspectives had a great academic program," Davis said. "That's why I went there. I wasn't really going there because of basketball. The academic program was great. Ninety-five percent of the kids graduate and go to college. My dream was always to go to college."

Better than Wizards? No way, Cal says

Coach Cal likes his team. He thinks they're really good.

But the notion that Kentucky could beat an NBA team - absurd, Calipari said Thursday.

"This team could not beat one NBA team, not one," Coach Cal said. "The worst one in the league, we could not beat."

Former Maryland coach Gary Williams made the assertion earlier in the week on a Washington radio station. He said he thought the Wildcats could beat the Washington Wizards in a game at Rupp Arena.

"That's a great compliment," senior guard Darius Miller said. "I necessarily don't think that we can beat any NBA teams, but it is good that people feel that way about us."

Coach Cal is more concerned with beating the teams on his playing field than the Washington Wizards.

"I have a terrific team," Calipari said. "Now let me say this: There are good players on every team in this tournament. I have good players on my team. But every team has good players. The players are why they're here or they would not be here, so we all have good players. Now you may say you have more of them and maybe I'll agree we do have good players, but the other teams do too."

Miller on verge of record

Davis has been the record-shattering player for the Cats this season, but Miller could break a new record this weekend that speaks to the sustained success and commitment of the four-year senior.

Just by entering Saturday's game, Miller will tie Wayne Turner's games played record of 151. A trip to the national championship would break the record.

The number of games is a tribute to the wins Miller has accomplished in his career. After notching 22 victories in his first season at Kentucky, Miller's teams have totaled 35, 29 and now 36 wins, a combined 122 victories. Remarkably, Turner's teams notched 132 victories.

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