Those of us who are old enough to remember Louisville basketball all the way back to the Metro Days, realize that the one true Rival we've kept throughout the years is Cincinnati. Even as a child, going to games in Freedom Hall, I could always tell when the mood in that Old Barn was a more tense than usual. It was always like that when UC came to town. By the time I started going to games, Cincinnati (along with Memphis State) had already left the Metro Conference for "The Great MidWest." When the two teams finally met again in Conference USA, during the 1995-1996 season, the game was played in Cincinnati, and the BearCats were the #6 team in the nation.
That Louisville team is still one of my all-time favorites. So many great memories, Brian Kiser for the win at Paully Pavilion in Los Angels, Tick Rogers breaking Kerry Kittles ankles in the Tournament, exacting revenge on Memphis for putting us out of the NCAA tournament the year before, and so many more; but,... I can specifically remember my dad making an extra big deal about getting to play Cincinnati again. All I knew about them, at that point in time, was that they were a ranked team and must be pretty good. After we beat them that year, in the only regular season meeting, I guess I didn't really know how much I hated them,.. yet.
A few weeks later, with a whole lot at stake in terms of seeding for the NCAA tournament (much like tomorrow night), Cinci beat us by double digits in the CUSA Tournament. After that I knew I hated them; and,... I knew I hated Danny Fortson. God I hated Danny Fortson (wasn't he at UC for like 7 years?). That Louisville squad had beaten some really good teams that year; but, they'd also lost some games they shouldn't have. IE: losing to Memphis and Marquette right after they won at #6Cincinnati. They also blew another chance to improve their seeding when Marcus Camby, and you know who, came to town in the season finale. Another win over a top10 Cincinnati team would have gone a long way in terms of who/ where we played in the Tournament. We lost, we lost badly.
We ended up as a #6 seed, same Bracket as the UK team that won the Championship that year, and drew the Minneapolis Region. We had to play #10 Villinova in the second round, followed by the Tim Duncan led Demon Deacons in the Sweet16. Meanwhile,... Cincinnati got a #2 seed, and played their Regional in Lex-ghanistan. I think it's safe to say that I hated Cincinnati after that initial year in CUSA; and, it's also safe to say that the hate didn't subside throughout the Steve Logan (another guy who, I swear to God, was at UC for more than 4 years)/ Kenyon Martin era.
I hated Bob Huggins,... I hated his players,.... and I hated that his teams physically beat us up every time we played them. From 1997-2001 Cincinnati held an eight game winning streak against us, and a lot of those games weren't even close. Then on Janurary 24th 2001, with rumors swirling that Denny Crum was going to have a meeting with Tom Jurich (the very next day) to discuss the "future of the program",... Louisville limped into The Shoe with a 6-12 record. Having already lost to the Bear-Cats by 20 just two weeks earlier in Freedom Hall, I don't think anyone expected the losing streak to stop on that night.
Then something happened. It was almost as if the players were sticking up for their coach that night in the Queen City. Some of the players were later quoted as saying that UC players like Steve Logan and Kenny Satterfield had laughed at them in their earlier meeting. There was no laughing from the UC contingent that night (we won 63-54 but lead pretty much the entire game). Guided by Marquis Maybin (19 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals), Louisville set the tone early and often. The game would prove to be the last Denny Crum win over Cincinnati,.... and he was indeed "asked" to step down at the end of the year.
Since joining the Big East,.. ESPN has placed our Rivalry Week games against the likes of UConn, Pitt, WVU, and even Syracuse; but, that's only because they were better match-ups for their National Audience. The only Rivalry with any substance/ History that we have with any team in the Big East,... is with Cincinnati. We haven't lost the last eight in a row to UC, but they have had our number lately and a win tomorrow night would feel pretty good. It would also go a long way to staying right around the seeding line that we're on right now as well.
A few factoids about the Rivalry....
-Series began in 1921
-Teams have been in MVC, Metro, C-USA, and Big East together
-Teams have met every season since 1965 except 1992-1995 when Cincinnati was in Great Midwest
-Louisville leads 53-41 overall
-Cincinnati leads 23-21 at home
-Louisville leads 31-13 when ranked
-Louisville leads 12-8 away when ranked
-Louisville leads 23-10 when ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Louisville leads 9-5 away when ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Louisville leads 42-31 in conference play
-Series tied 17-17 in conference play in Cincinnati
-Louisville leads 26-12 in conference play when ranked
-Louisville leads 19-7 in conference play when ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Louisville leads 10-6 away in conference play when ranked
-Louisville leads 7-3 away in conference play when ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Series tied 4-4 in Big East play
-Series tied 2-2 in Big East play in Cincinnati
-Louisville leads 2-1 in Big East play when ranked
-Seried tied 1-1 in Big East play in Cincinnati when Louisville is ranked
-Cincinnati has never been ranked when playing Louisville in the Big East
-Louisville leads 9-8 under Rick Pitino
-Cincinnati leads 5-3 at home vs. Louisville under Rick Pitino
-Louisville leads 6-3 under Rick Pitino when ranked
-Louisville leads 3-2 under Rick Pitino when ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Cincinnati leads 3-2 at home vs. Louisville under Rick Pitino when Louisville is ranked
-Cincinnati leads 2-1 at home vs. Louisville under Rick Pitino when Louisville is ranked and Cincinnati is unranked
-Rick Pitino is 4-3 vs. Mick Cronin (includes 1-0 vs. Murray State)
-Rick Pitino is 11-9 vs. Cincinnati
GO CARDS!! Beat Cinci!!