Not ready for Kentucky-Arkansas war: After the  heated past month between the Razorbacks’ and Kentucky Wildcats, Kentucky coach Mark Pope, shared his feelings toward Arkansas and John Calipari.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Over the past month, tensions have escalated between the Razorbacks and Kentucky Wildcats fanbases, with heated exchanges, especially on X, verging on verbal assaults.

New Kentucky coach Mark Pope, however, holds a contrasting view of Arkansas and John Calipari. During the College Hoops Today podcast with Jon Rothstein on Monday, Pope expressed deep gratitude for Calipari’s 15-year tenure at Kentucky.

“I’ll forever be grateful to Coach Cal,” Pope stated. “I’m thankful for what he did at my alma mater, the University of Kentucky. There’s no reason for my heart not to be full of gratitude to him. He’s also one of the greatest coaches to ever coach in college basketball.”

Despite Kentucky securing only one national championship under Calipari, the Wildcats’ national perception remains strong, with 138 players sent to the NBA, 47 of whom were prepared by Calipari, including 38 first-round picks.

As fan tensions rise, it’s worth noting that Calipari brought several players, who were expected to be on Kentucky’s roster next season, to Arkansas. None of the Wildcats’ 2023-2024 team members will return next season, and only one committed player has upheld his pledge.

Arkansas faces a similar situation with no scholarship players returning from Eric Musselman’s final team. Currently, Arkansas tops the 247Sports transfer portal rankings, featuring former Kentucky players Zvonimir Ivisic and Adou Thiero. The Razorbacks have also signed three members of Kentucky’s original 2024 high school recruiting class: Karter Knox, Billy Richmond Jr., and Boogie Fland, intensifying the rivalry with Lexington.

This burgeoning rivalry is set to become one of the most intense in college basketball, benefiting the sport as a whole.

“For him to be in [the SEC] is great for basketball,” Pope remarked. “It’s going to be great for Arkansas fans and certainly great for Big Blue Nation. It’s going to be a battle, and it’s going to get personal. Competing against someone you know well, like a brother, can get ugly because you care so much. I expect some of that dynamic with Coach Cal.”

Fans worldwide will witness the first clash of this rivalry in the 2024-25 season. The SEC has announced that Arkansas will play a road game in Lexington, though the date and time are yet to be determined.

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