Cameron Murray figured he knew all about rivalries after playing in UCLA-USC games for the Trojans and watching his brother, Tracy, do the same for UCLA.
Then he ran into Kentucky-Louisville.
Murray is Louisville's starting point guard after transferring from USC two seasons ago, and he'll bring the Cardinals into Pauley Pavilion on Sunday with an 8-10 record that has one big exclamation point--a 79-76 victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
"The only thing I know is the USC-UCLA rivalry, and it's very intense in football and basketball, but I've never seen anything like this in my life," said Murray, who had 15 points and six assists in Louisville's upset of the Wildcats last month.
"You win the game, and you're like a hero the rest of the year," he said. "I've never seen a game mean so much in my life, except maybe the NBA finals. It was said after we beat them that a UK fan threw a TV out a 12-story window."
Now he and his teammates are turning their attention to Murray's natural rival, the Bruins.
"I'm sure they know how much it would mean to me, and how much I want to beat UCLA," said Murray, who was 0 for 2 seasons against the Bruins at USC. "I definitely know a lot of them, Toby [Bailey] and J.R. [Henderson] and Jelani [McCoy] and Kris [Johnson].
"It would take a team effort for us to win, but we have won the last two against them. You can never count out UCLA, even if they were 5-20, I believe they're always in the top five."
Louisville is more dangerous than the record shows--the losses are to Georgia Tech (twice), North Carolina, Purdue, Arkansas, Mississippi, Marquette, Syracuse, Alabama Birmingham and Cincinnati. Every one of those teams except Alabama Birmingham has been ranked at some point this season--as were the Cardinals in the early going.
"Our record isn't showing what we'd like it to," Murray said. "But we're playing the nation's toughest schedule."
Murray never really made his mark at USC, transferring after two seasons in which he averaged eight points and four assists, even though he started most of his games as a Trojan.
The year he sat out at Louisville seems to have done him good--a lot of it was spent playing against DeJuan Wheat, the senior who was Louisville's second all-time leading scorer.
This season, with the impossible task of replacing Wheat, Murray is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10 points, and had a 21-point game against Arkansas. But he's focusing more on passing lately, and his 13-assist performance in a victory over Saint Louis this week was only one assist off the school record. His shooting, which held him back at USC, has improved to 42%.
"I decided to leave USC mainly because I wasn't comfortable with my situation as a basketball player and I wasn't maturing as a player and a person," said Murray, who left after the Charlie Parker-Henry Bibby season but says he holds Bibby in high regard. "I believe I did not blossom. George Raveling got in that car accident, and if he wouldn't have retired, I probably would still be there."
But if he were still at USC, he wouldn't know what it's like to be the toast of Louisville and the scourge of Lexington.
"There were a lot of angry people," Murray said. "My family was down for the weekend. I saw them high up in the stands, the only people wearing red in a whole blue section. People gave them an earful, my mom said, but she said it was the best game she'd ever seen me play."
WHAT, TROUBLE IN FRESNO?
Nobody has been photographed in a hot tub with Richie the Fixer, but the spate of problems at Fresno State is too predictable.
So is Jerry Tarkanian's response. Aren't they always great kids who need a little help?
The latest in trouble are USC transfer Avondre Jones and forward Daymond Forney, who have been suspended indefinitely for unspecified reasons.
The only thing that's clear is that the school's Student Athlete Assistance Program--meant to help with personal problems ranging from antisocial behavior to substance abuse--ought to receive an endowed scholarship.
Seven of the team's 10 scholarship players have been in trouble.
Forney and forward Terrance Roberson served suspensions for unspecified violations earlier in the season, and point guard Rafer Alston, convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend, also was suspended briefly. Shooting guard Chris Herren left the team because of a drinking problem he appears to have controlled through rehabilitation.
Then there's basketball. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 12 early in the season, are 9-7.
"It's Tark Time," the Fresno Bee headline read when Tarkanian took the job in 1995.
So it is. Except Nevada Las Vegas used to win.
What has become of Minnesota's 1997 Final Four team without the Denver Nuggets' Bobby Jackson, the Celtics' John Thomas and Courtney James, who left school after being suspended for the year following a misdemeanor assault conviction?
Try 0-6 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1971.