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By LARRY VAUGHT
Actor Josh Hopkins, a Lexington native, has a lot going on professionally, but nothing is important to him this week than Kentucky and Louisville playing in the Final Four in New Orleans Saturday.
Hopkins, a life-long Kentucky fan, is not like some UKâ€ˆfans who are apprehensive over playing Louisville for a second time this season â€” UK won 69-62 on Dec. 31.
â€œWhat’s not to love? Cats, Cards. Cal (John Calipari) and Rick (Pitino). Puts the state on a national stage. I-64 has never been so famous. Plus, I think we are lucky in that both teams seem to have very likable, good kids,â€ said Hopkins. â€œI think it not only elevates the rivalry nationally but I think it heightens it locally. People in Kentucky will be talking about this game forever.
â€œIt’s so great. The nation is watching and Kentucky is worthy of the attention. It showcases the state as the capitol of college basketball and we certainly are. I’m extremely proud of Kentucky!Â Plus, the first Saturday in May (and the Kentucky Derby) is just around the corner.â€
Hopkins was 12 in 1983 when the two rivals met in the 1983 NCAA Tournament in Knoxville. Louisville won the Mideast Regional game80-68.
â€œI cried after The Cats lost the ’83 Dream Game.â€ Saturday can’t get here fast enough,â€ Hopkins said.
His professional career has kept the Cougar Town co-star from attending any NCAA games. He says he recently completed production on another television pilot and has also shot several episodes for â€œIn Plain Sight,â€ a Friday show on USA Network.
â€œBusy is good. The other television pilot doesn’t mean Cougar Town is done. It just means that if it doesn’t come back for a fourth season, I may have another gig ready to go. My business is a tough one, so to have work lined up is a lucky thing,â€ Hopkins said.
However, thereâ€™s no luck involved with who he wants to see win Saturday.
â€œPlease. Go Big Blue,â€ Hopkins said.
Part of that is because he still has mixed feelings about Pitino, the former Kentucky coach who left for the Boston Celtics and then came back to coach the Cardinals.
â€œOn one level I’m still very bitter. When he left for Boston the Big Blue Nation sent him away as a saint. We didn’t want him to leave but understood and wished him the best and thought of him, certainly, as a lifetime Wildcat,â€ Hopkins said. â€œWhen he returned to college basketball and went to Louisville, it was a slap in the face. Louisville, really? Really Rick?
â€œUnfortunately it feels like too many people confuse this basketball animosity for genuine life animosity, genuine hatred. People need to keep perspective.â€
Good point. So what is his perspective on how his Wildcats played to beat Indiana and Baylor in Atlanta?
â€œAs impressed as I’ve ever been with any Kentucky team. They seem to have mastered the perfect blend of a business-like focus while still emanating a sense that they are kids having fun playing a game. It makes them a joy to watch,â€ Hopkins said.
If Kentucky wins and plays Monday, Hopkins said â€œI will be thereâ€ for the national title game.
â€œMy schedule clears up perfectly and I can fly to New Orleans on Monday morning â€” clad in blue,â€ he said.
But does he expect Kentucky to win Saturday?
â€œI hope so. I love this team and I think we are the best team in the country,â€ Hopkins said. â€œAnything can happen in a one-game scenario but I think this team is ready for every challenge so, yes, I think us playing Monday night is highly possible.â€
Any final thoughts on the Final Four?
â€œGo Big Blue,â€ Hopkins said.