Cards - Tigers rivalry heating up again

ITV's Scott Stepro looks back at the once heated rivalry between the Cardinals and Tigers and explains why this rivalry is heating back up again.

Cards - Tigers rivalry heating up again

During the long gone days of the Metro Conference few rivalries in any conference were of the caliber of Memphis State  and Louisville.  

Labradford Smith and his high-flying dunks and Elliot Perry and his steady game (despite his high socks and sports glasses) are no longer on the bench. Keith Lee's Gerry-curl is gone but through it all there is still a Wagner and he remembers how tough it was. 

So tough was the rivalry that Wagner, the fourth-leading scorer in Louisville history and father of former prep phenom and current Cleveland Cavalier Dajuan, said in Memphis' Commercial Appeal, "They (meaning current players at each school) don't know how big this rivalry used to be. Back when we used to play, those games were unbelievable. It was great for college basketball because they were always on national television and you knew it was going to be a helluva game - win, lose or draw." 

This is not to say that the rivalry started there, it did not. The first Louisville-Memphis match-up was a Cards win in Memphis way back in 1949, but certainly stoked the fire from the camper variety to "bon-fire" proportions. 

Wagner, who now serves as the director of basketball operations at Memphis, should know.  He was in on his fair share of them. During Milt's time at Louisville, the Cards won 8 of 14 games with Memphis State. Milt's Cards tallied 2 wins in Memphis and 6 at home; the Tigers won 5 in Memphis and managed one in Freedom Hall. If that ebb and flow weren't enough to fan the flames of the rivalry, the two OT Memphis victories in Memphis were. When you add the fact that five points or less settled half of the games during Milts era, no matter the venue, fanning is no longer required; the rivalry was red hot all on its own.  

The rivalry remained strong until Memphis State left the Metro and dropped the State from its name. Now the rivalry takes on new meaning, as each teams current skipper was responsible for stellar NCAA tournament runs with well-coached programs at the same time.  When each reached the pinnacle of college hoops they walked away for a chance in the NBA. Both flamed out and returned to the collegiate ranks; a place where most thought they belonged. With their careers seemingly intertwined, Calipari and Pitino now look to add a new chapter to this once great rivalry.

Louisville is 0-1 in the new era and Pitino's #3 Cards owe Calipari's Tigers some payback starting tomorrow. 

So sit back and watch the sparks fly, again.  

Scott's Keys to the Game

Perimeter defense is paramount; the Tigers shoot well from downtown with 32% of the shots coming from the arc (142-412 34.5%). John Grice and Anthony Rice are the predominant 3-point shooters but don't lost track of Rod Carney, he is not shy about shooting and can surely drain the triple (34-84 40.5%). Ball line defense is no less important; the Tigers take care of the ball and have a combined 16.9/11.4 assists to fumble ratio. Watch out for Antonio Burks when he is running the offensive.  He has a 3.9/1.6 assist to turnover average and can pull up and hit a jump shot from anywhere. Taking care of the ball for the Cards is also a key as the Tigers average 8 steals while forcing their opponents to 16 turnovers on the season. The Cards must keep Chris Massie, Grice and Carney off the boards. This is especially critical on the offensive end if the Cards shots are not falling.   Like Marquette, Memphis is not going to give you many second chance shots so the Cards must capitalize when given an opportunity. 

Look for the Cards to win number 2 in a row as the UofL frontcourt continues their mission on the boards in a barn burner over the Tiger, 88-76.


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