COLUMN: WKU another UK-U of L battleground

Brad Stephens

You won’t need to watch the game on Saturday to know who won.

All you’ll really need to do is walk into a classroom on Monday and look around.

If you see a bunch of “Bow to the Brow,” “Can’t Wait for 8” and “I Still Hate Laettner” shirts, then you’ll know Kentucky beat Louisville on Saturday in the Final Four in New Orleans and will be marching to the national championship game on Monday.

You’ll see a satisfied Big Blue Nation, happy its big, bad Wildcats dispatched “little brother” U of L on the way to a preordained eighth national title.

But what if UK were to lose?

What if Rick Pitino’s underdog Cardinals were to shock the basketball world and beat John Calipari’s No. 1 Wildcats?

Well, campus may go from WK-Blue to W-Stay-Home-U.

“If Louisville wins, God, I will probably not go to school the next day,” Evansville junior and unapologetic UK fan Will Roberts said. “That would be awful.”

In the midst of that Big Blue apocalypse, Hodgenville junior Drew Tucker will be one of those in class with a head held high.  

Tucker became a Cardinals fan around the time Pitino became head coach at U of L in 2001 and has followed the team ever since.

He said he’s had friendly moments with Wildcat fans while wearing Cardinal gear this week, usually hearing “Go Cats” or “Beat Louisville” comments from UK supporters.

“They like to talk smack,” Tucker said.

The UK-U of L rivalry is complex, full of complicated racial, political, socioeconomic and on-court dynamics.

Now, Saturday will mark the team’s first-ever meeting this far into the tournament.

Lexington and Louisville are, of course, the rivalry’s centers of chaos.

That’s where the flipped police cars, couch fires and Bob Evans window-smashings will likely occur on Saturday, regardless of which team wins.

WKU, where many students that grew as UK or U of L fans, is still a rivalry battleground, even if to a lesser degree.

Ronnie Ward, public information officer for the Bowling Green Police Department, said he doesn’t expect things to get too out of hand in Bowling Green for Saturday’s game, which tips at 5:09 p.m. CST.

“You may get one or two more DUIs. You may get one or two more disturbances where people just can’t get along and start fighting,” Ward said. “I don’t anticipate them turning cars over and lighting them on fire. Hopefully not, anyways.”

But you can still expect to find WKU students huddled around TVs at sports bars, dorm lobbies, fraternity houses and everywhere else on Saturday, many rooting for either UK or U of L.

As for the outcome, consensus opinion seems to have the favorited Wildcats coming away with the win.

WKU head men’s basketball coach Ray Harper picked “the team that knocked us out,” referencing UK.

“I think they’re the best team out there,” Harper said.

Roberts said he also expects a UK win, though he’s worried Pitino could have a trick or two ready for the Wildcats.

“I just think we’re going to blow right through them,” Roberts said. “But you know, then again, Pitino could have that squad ready because he is a great coach.”

Meanwhile, Tucker said “he hasn’t even thought” of picking the outcome.

“Obviously I want Louisville to win… but it’s hard to even predict,” Tucker said.

Whoever wins on Saturday, it should be a fun day in the Commonwealth.

Just keep it classy, sit back and enjoy what will hopefully be some great college basketball.