The Louisville and Kentucky rivalry has always been a heated debate, but it has never been this intense. Part of that is Rick Pitino going to the arch rival school after his stint in the NBA, and the other part is John Calipari coming to Kentucky in the 2009-2010 season. Calipari and Pitino will never say they dislike each other, but everybody around the game knows that they hate each other. The fan bases hate each other, and it seems like to me that it has gotten worse over the last 3 years. I can’t think of any other reason than the Calipari vs Pitino rivalry, and with Kentucky’s instant success with Calipari at the helm made it that much worse. Kentucky and John Calipari are 4-0 against Louisville, and one of those victories being last year in the final four. This rivalry goes much deeper than just the game played every year in December, it goes all the way to the recruiting front.
John Calipari usually can recruit all around the world, and have great success. Rick Pitino likes to do the same, so it’s only fitting that these two would end up recruiting the same guys. This is nothing new, and it’s not a shot at Louisville but John Calipari and company usually wins. This is not just the battle of the two schools but Calipari usually gets whoever he wants from all around the country. I want to take a look at the heated battles between to the coaches/schools since Calipari came to Kentucky in 2009.
Marquis Teague- This was the biggest battle between the two schools in some time. Teague had Kentucky and Louisville as his final two before he made his choice. Every recruting guru said it was going to be Louisville, and even the staff at Louisville thought that Teague was going to be putting on a Cardinal hat. Rick Pitino even hired his AAU coach to be on the staff where it would give him a recruting edge for Teague, but despite all that Teague put on a Kentucky Wildcat hat, and eventaully led the Wildcats to the NCAA 2012 National championship. Marquis Teague was the #1 ranked point guard in the 2011 class. Winner: John Calipari
Chane Behanan- Chane was a Kentucky boy, and a very good high school player. He was ranked in the top 25 of the same 2011 class. He went to high school in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Kentucky, Louisville, and Cincinnati were the 3 schools at the top of Behanan’s list and many felt the UC would grab the big guy from Kentucky, but instead he picked the Cardinals over UK and UC. This was a very good pick up for Pitino because Chane has been a beast in college just like he was in high school. There were rumors that Behanan was looking at going pro after the final four game against UK, but that turned out to be false, and he is back for Louisville for his sophomore season. He is a major part of the run Louisville is capable of making this year. Winner: Rick Pitino
Marcus Lee- Marcus is from California, but along with California he had Louisville and Kentucky as his top 3 before eventually cutting Louisville right before Big Blue Madness this year. Most recruiting guys thought that he would stay out west and attend the home state school(California), but Calipari worked his magic once again, and got another top 25 recruit to join him at Kentucky. Marcus is having a huge senior season for Deer Valley HS(CA). He is getting 20-20-10 every game, and is on pace to be a Mcdonalds All-American at the end of his high school season. Winner: John Calipari
Derek Willis- Willis is the front runner for Kentucky Mr. Basketball, and plays his high school basketball at Bullitt East High School in Mt. Washington, Kentucky. He made a name for himself his sophomore year in the Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena. He was once committed to Purdue, but backed out of that and opened his options back up. Again most people thought that Louisville was the leader for his services as his dad was a huge Louisville Cardinals fan, but John Calipari once again showed his power and snatched Willis right out of Pitino’s hands. Willis was ranked in the top 30 according to ESPN, but now ranks #124 in the scout.com rankings. Winner: John Calipari
This is probably unfair to compare Pitino to Calipari, because nobody is as good as Coach Cal in the recruiting game. That part that surprises me is Cal’s record vs Pitino while at Kentucky. He is 4-0 and winning with an average of 10 points. I have heard people say that Rick Pitino’s worst nightmare came true when Calipari was hired as the coach of Kentucky. I would now say that this is true while looking at the major recruitments, and his coaching record against Kentucky in the last three seasons. Put a National title in the mix in 3 years and that just makes the saying even more true as Rick has been at Louisville for 11 seasons without a title, and only two final fours. Louisville is better this season, and will likely beat Kentucky on December 29th, but as they say “Anything Can Happen”.