While Kentucky buzzes with basketball banter, local fans and businesses are preparing for one of the biggest games of recent years.
The University of Kentucky takes on the University of Louisville on Friday night for a berth in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight, and Wildcat and Cardinal fans have drawn a line in the sand. No matter on which side of the line allegiances lie, fans will be heading out to local watering holes in large numbers to watch the battle of the Bluegrass.
Tim Winsett, manager of Paducah's Buffalo Wild Wings, said his restaurant is stocking up for the big game Friday night. The chain increases orders and staffing in preparation for such big games, Winsett said.
"We look ahead to games like this, and when we saw the match-up was set we started preparing," Winsett said. "We like to play offense instead of defense, so we have plenty of food and alcohol ordered. We're expecting it to be packed."
Other eateries also are attempting to capitalize on the UK-Louisville hype. Phil Whitnell with Fat Moe's said the bar doesn't usually see a large sports-centered crowd, but Friday may be an exception.
"We will definitely have a lot of our regulars here, and the amount of people may surprise me a little bit," Whitnell said. "But we have the TVs, and we are absolutely going to have the game on."
Other restaurants that normally wouldn't consider the sports crowd their main audience are doing what they can to attract basketball fans. Phillip Harrington, owner of Eat-O Burrito, said his restaurant has been running basketball-related specials leading up to the match-up, and he's extending his hours to cater to basketball fans who want to drop in and watch the game.
"It's a big deal around here, and we are big basketball fans here," Harrington said. "We've had UK on all season, but Friday night is a huge game, and we're hoping people are going to come out and have fun."
While it's expected that nearly all major restaurants will have the game on in some form or fashion, some fans are opting to stay home. Paducah resident Katie Barfield said her family is staying home Friday night, choosing to invite friends over instead of venturing out. Her reasoning? Too much blue.
"There's no way we would go to most places around here," said Barfield, an avid Louisville fan. "This city is flooded with UK fans. And they're really loud and quite frankly sometimes obnoxious."
Paducahan Adam Moyers, a UK fan, said he plans to watch the game at a friend's house. He's gone to the same friend's house for the past two wins - Kentucky's Round 2 game against Kansas State and its upset of Wichita State - and Moyers said he doesn't see a reason to change a good thing. The anticipation for Friday's match-up is definitely building, he said.
"I am really excited," Moyers said. "We've already beat Louisville. We are playing very well now, and I think we can do it again when it really matters."
CBS will televise the game, which is scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.
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