THESE ARE not natural enemies. Marquette is a Jesuit school in a Midwestern brew town. Louisville is a state school in a Southern horse-racing mecca. They are joined by the Big East, but separated by the obsession of Louisville fans with Kentucky. Yet a series of classic finishes in this decade has given rise to a rivalry of the highest order. The latest chapter was written last Feb. 17, when Louisville's freshman guard Jerry Smith, who grew up near Milwaukee and was offered a scholarship by Marquette in the eighth grade, hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three at the Bradley Center. It was "the stuff you dream about," says Smith, who tore off his jersey and raced the length of the court exulting. It was the third time in five years that the Cardinals had stunned Marquette on its turf: Francisco Garcia nailed a game-clinching three in Milwaukee in 2005, and Reece Gaines, a Madison, Wis., native, did the same in '03. The '04 game wasn't bad, either; the Golden Eagles' Dameon Mason won it on a free throw with less than a second left.
Wins for Crean in his first seven meetings with Pitino, who then took four of the next five.
IN 2004 Marquette discovered Louisville's scouting report in the locker room, including a story doctored with a fake quote from coach Tom Crean (left) calling the Cardinals one of the league's "lesser teams." When Crean objected, Louisville's Rick Pitino said it was a joke he had no prior knowledge of.
TALKING THE TALK
"I don't think there's any denying that this is a rivalry. Rivalries aren't created by mutual hopes, they're created by what players do on the floor. Just look at how close our games have been."
WHEN THEY MEET: Jan. 17 in Louisville; Feb. 4 in Milwaukee