Conference realignment and scheduling conflicts have canceled many of NCAA Basketball’s best rivalries. We’d like to see these games return.
NCAA basketball thrives on the passion and energy brought to the sport by players, coaches, and fans alike, and nothing amps those levels up to maximum capacity like a quality matchup between rivals.
Many of these rivalries are between teams in the same conference, so they are locked in and preserved every season. Other nonconference games, like Kentucky-Louisville or Cincinnati-Xavier, are preserved by both schools and the fan bases’ unrelenting desire to see those games take place.
However, there is no group overseeing that portion of the schedule to ensure those games take place. Unfortunately, that has led to some of the sport’s best rivalries being thrown to the wayside due to conference realignment and/or scheduling disagreements between programs.
If we had our way, though, all these games would be played — especially these five “dead” rivalries that absolutely have to be revived.
What developed into one of the ACC’s premier rivalries fell apart when Maryland left for the Big Ten amidst some financial hardships. The two have not played since, leaving a major void in the college basketball universe.
In its heyday, this rivalry had many of the sport’s iconic moments. The Miracle Minute. A 20-point comeback in the Final Four. Both winning national championships in a two-year span (Duke in 2001, Maryland in 2002). The feud between J.J. Redick and the Maryland fan base.
That hate hasn’t gone away either! Here’s what Maryland’s official Twitter account tweeted after Jon Scheyer was announced as Coach K’s successor:
- The pettiness!
- The atmosphere!
College basketball is at its best when games are played in these atmospheres, and those atmospheres are reserved for games the fan base really cares about. Maryland does not have a natural rival in the Big Ten (though one is budding between them and Michigan), and Duke doesn’t have that relationship with anyone outside UNC (and sometimes NC State).
Both schools would benefit from this game being played annually.
Speaking of signature moments, Kentucky-Indiana created one that we’ve seen over and over throughout the past decade:
Unfortunately, that was the last scheduled game between these two blueblood programs. They faced each other every season from 1969-2012, concluding in that buzzer-beater from Christian Watford, with their last two meetings coming in the NCAA Tournament (2012, 2016).
Despite the intensity of their most recent meetings, future games haven’t been scheduled over disagreements whether to play the games on alternating home courts or at neutral sites. Kentucky head coach John Calipari doesn’t seem all too urgent to rekindle the series, either.
It should go without saying that it’s great for college basketball when two of the sport’s biggest brands face off every season, especially with the passion and intensity of these fan bases.
Let’s get on a six-year rotation with each program hosting two home games and each getting one “local” neutral site game of its choosing. Make it happen!
You could really do this with Syracuse and most Big East teams, but its rivalry with UConn is special and should be preserved. Syracuse-Georgetown was at the forefront of that list for the Orange, yet we’d like to see them face the Huskies on an annual basis, too.
Many of the reasons are the same as above — two of the sport’s biggest brands with passionate fan bases, traditionally quality teams, and a long history of exciting matchups. Remember that six overtime game?
This used to be a premier matchup between arguably the two best teams in the New England area. Both programs have struggled since conference realignment but adding a game of this caliber back on the calendar would generate a ton of excitement both in New England and nationally.
I know Texas fans are more apt to want the rivalry with Texas A&M to come back — particularly on the football field — and we’d like to see that happen on the basketball court, too. That said, reviving this old Southwest conference rivalry would have much more appeal and be much more competitive considering the current state of the Aggies program.
The storylines for this rivalry moving forward would be immense. It would feature two excellent young, passionate coaches on the sidelines in Chris Beard and Eric Musselman, both of whom provide plenty of content on their own. Both sides also have excellent rosters that rank in the top 15 in our preseason rankings, and both programs have a lot of positive momentum from those recent coaching hires (and, in Musselman’s case, on-court success).
The two have only played six times since the SWC disbanded and don’t have any future dates on the books. This matchup would reverberate nationally and energize two large fan bases, both of which are excellent for the sport.
I’m putting this in an all-for-one type deal because all these teams should play each other. All four are in different conferences and all four are relevant enough for each matchup to be a big game. Only Cincinnati and Xavier play each other on an annual basis, too, and that’s one of the sport’s best rivalries.
Whether it’s via an Ohio version of Indiana’s Crossroads Classic — which features annual rotating matchups between in-state rivals Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame, and Purdue — or the Big 5 (Philadelphia schools) all playing each other every season, this needs to start.