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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Memphis-Louisville to end rivalry drought

By Eamonn Brennan

Here's something the younger fans among us might not quite remember: On Saturday, when the Memphis Tigers travel to the Yum! Center to play Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, a long-standing and very heated college hoops rivalry -- one that was as good as it gets in the 1980s -- will be reborn.

OK, I admit it: I forgot these two teams were rivals, too. But the Memphis Flyer's Frank Murtaugh provided a helpful reminder in his column Thursday:
The Memphis Tigers and Louisville Cardinals have played each other on the basketball court 85 times. (The only other program Memphis has faced as many as 70 times is Southern Miss, with 86 games in the books.) These teams played each other every season from 1967-68 to 1990-91, then 11 more — as Conference USA members — from 1994-95 to 2004-05. Which makes it a sin that six full seasons have passed without a Tiger-Cardinal blood match.

It was 2005 when these teams played last, and that game was as good as they get. John Calipari, Pitino's long-time rival, was still at Memphis. The two met in the C-USA conference tournament championship game. The Tigers needed a win to earn an unlikely NCAA tournament berth, and with six seconds on the clock and a two-point deficit to erase (this is the part where you YouTube this clip -- I can wait), Memphis guard Darius Washington raced the length of the floor and chucked a three -- and was fouled with no time left on the clock.

Washington made his first free throw, winking with confidence at the Memphis bench. But Washington missed the last two, handing Louisville a one-point win as he collapsed on the floor in a heap of despair.

Imagine if Memphis fans knew that game would be their last crack at Louisville for another six years. As if the loss wasn't already bad enough, Tigers fans have been waiting for a rematch all this time. At 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Memphis — again unranked, again playing a top-10 Louisville team — will get it. One of the best and most underrated rivalries in college hoops will, after a too-long hiatus, finally return. Yes please.