5 Edge-of-Your-Seat College Basketball Rivalries
Rivalry week is officially here — and more than half over. Some of the best, most storied rivalries have been played since Tuesday, and they didn’t fail to disappoint. Whether it was Big Ten foes Michigan versus Ohio State, or formerly Big East but now-ACC rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, fans everywhere got the chance to root against their most-hated adversaries. The beautiful thing about rivalry week? It occurs amid the conference season, and there are so many deep-seated conference rivalries (sometimes unknown to even the most ardent followers of NCAA basketball) that almost every single game evokes passion from loyal fans.
Unfortunately, this week doesn’t include every great college basketball rivalry. Some of the oldest, most significant games aren’t yearly events anymore because the teams have changed conferences — and the conferences are still changing. Because the ongoing realignment of some of the biggest conferences has taken place over the past two years, a few traditional rivals will no longer meet regularly, and maybe not even at all. This list doesn’t entail only the best games played this week. It’s five of the best, most competitive basketball rivalries to date — same conference or not — in the NCAA from top to bottom.
1. North Carolina-Duke
As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, these two powerhouses have been going at each other for decades atop the ACC. One year it will be Duke with the edge, the next it will be North Carolina. Both teams are usually filled with talented players, and this makes the game(s) that much more exciting and that much more worthwhile. Not to mention the rivalry pits two of the game’s best coaches against each other — the Tar Heels are led by Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, and the Blue Devils by the similarly impressive Mike Krzyzewski.
The reason this is No. 1 on the list, though, doesn’t revolve around the talent of the players or coaches. Those factors fuel the tension, but the rivalry is rooted in the close proximity of the two schools, which are just 10 miles apart. Durham (Duke’s home) is a hop and a skip away from Chapel Hill (UNC’s campus), and that short trip down Tobacco Road means the teams’ respective fans regularly interact with each other. They live amongst each other, and they thoroughly despise each other (albeit respectfully). These are ingredients of a great rivalry.
While the game that was supposed to be played Wednesday night was postponed due to snowy weather, rest assured that next week’s makeup will be another historic meeting between the two historic programs.