Perhaps no sport is as filled with as many rivalries as college basketball. Whether it’s intrastate or intraconference, both the teams and fan bases rise to the occasion when their rival comes to town.
Rivalries stem from historic games, teams that have battled consistently over time and/or teams that have traditionally been among the nation’s best. With conference realignment sweeping the country, however, we must appreciate the rivalries we have. With that being said, here’s the top 10 college basketball rivalries:
10) Indiana – Purdue
The state of Indiana has a storied college basketball tradition. Indiana State, Butler and Notre Dame have all had their share of wins, but in the Hoosier State, no rivalry is bigger than the Boilermakers and the Hoosiers. From the days of Gene Keady and Bob Knight, these two Indiana schools have battled it out in the Big Ten for both wins and recruits. Indiana hit a lull for a few years, but it seems as if they are back. Look for this rivalry to pick up even more in years to come.
9) Duke – Maryland
While I am not under the impression that this rivalry compares to that of Duke and their crosstown-rival Tar Heels, it is still a rivalry – a top-10 rivalry at that. Make no mistake; these two schools do not like each other. For about a decade-long stretch in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, this may have been the most competitive rivalry in all of college basketball. The Jay Williams-Juan Dixon rivalry in the early 2000s is one of the best of all time, and the two schools continue to play twice a year in the ACC.
8) Oklahoma – Oklahoma State
7) Kansas – Texas
In recent years, this rivalry has decided the Big 12. It seems like these two schools bring in tons of talent year after year, and this results in high-quality games each season. Kansas has the upper hand all time with a 2,054-802 edge, but Texas coach Rick Barnes is a master recruiter and his teams are never overlooked. This is one series that does not look as if it is dying down anytime soon.
6) Michigan – Michigan State
Much like Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Michigan has a bigger rival on the gridiron, but they do not hate anyone more than Michigan State on the hardwood. Michigan State has been the better of the two teams in recent years, but the Wolverines are starting to bring in more and more recruits. This is another rivalry that should be competitive for years to come. Before the first installment of this year’s game, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said about the Wolverines, “Do I like ‘em? Not one bit.” I guess that sums it up.
5) Villanova – Temple
There may be not be a stage more historic in college basketball than Philly’s Big 5, and there is no bigger rivalry within the Big 5 than Villanova-Temple. The Wildcats and the Owls have either won or shared the Big 5 title for the last seven years. Temple has won 25 titles, the most titles all time, but ‘Nova seems to be the up-and-coming team. When you play in the Palestra (aka the Cathedral of College Basketball), every game becomes historic automatically. None of the Big 5 teams like each other, especially these two.
4) Kansas – Missouri
One of the great border wars in college basketball, Kansas and Missouri have played 265 times in just over a century. They know each other well, and both are usually competitive in the Big 12. But even when they aren’t, this game is still a dandy. Kansas is a factor in the national picture year in and year out, and this year’s Tiger squad has remained in the top 10. If this level of talent can continue, look for this rivalry to grow in the upcoming years.
3) Syracuse – Georgetown
Nothing says old-fashioned Big East basketball like Syracuse and Georgetown. John Thompson II vs. Jim Boeheim was one of the great coaching rivalries ever to be seen, and the players they had around them during the Big East’s heyday were some of the best around. Even when the Orange make their move to the ACC in 2014, I fully expect this rivalry to stay around because of the history and tradition it represents.
2) Louisville – Kentucky
A case could be made for this as the best rivalry in college basketball history. The hatred in this rivalry may be second to none. The fact that these two only play once a year makes it even better because there is no revenge game; the losers have to sit on it for another year. Louisville opened up a brand-new arena last year, which should help them in recruiting, but the Wildcats have a master recruiter of their own, John Calipari. Considering the history behind this rivalry, it is weird to think that Rick Pitino has coached on both sides.
1) Duke – North Carolina
Here we are, the best rivalry in college basketball. Was there any doubt? The schools are about a stone’s throw away from each other, and the territory that they share has families and households split. The nine national titles and the 36 conference titles (Duke 19, UNC 17) between the two just show the prestige of these storied programs. This rivalry never has a peak because it never gets old. If you really want to know why this is the best rivalry in all of college hoops, watch a game. The intensity is unparalleled anywhere … perhaps in all of sports.