Five of NCAA’s most heated rivalries
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Syracuse and Georgetown will play one last time as Big East members on Saturday, ending the rivalry in conference play. Here’s a look at the rest of college basketball’s best rivalries.
They’re almost always among the nation’s elite, adding larger implications to their matchups. The schools are separated by
8 miles, and their rivalry is as intense now as it was when teams coached by Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski went toe to toe in
the 1980s and much of the ’90s. Krzyzewski and current North Carolina coach Roy Williams combine for six national titles. Fans live for the teams’ two or three matchups every season, depending on whether they meet in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. There have been great buzzer-beaters and memorable bloodied faces (see Tyler Hansbrough). If one of the schools ever leaves the ACC, it would change the flavor of the sport.
The Bluegrass State lives and breathes college basketball 365 days a year. Recruiting blue-chippers is almost as important as winning national titles. Each program’s fans root for two teams: their own and anyone playing their in-state rival. Kentucky and Louisville have combined for 10 national titles, and the rivalry is at a fever pitch because both schools typically are championship contenders. They also have coaches — Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari — who don’t exactly love each other; loathe is a better word. The state came to a halt for last season’s meeting in the Final Four, which was won by Kentucky.
The schools, located 4 miles apart, first played in 1928 and have faced off every season since 1945-46. The game is a battle for city bragging rights, and trash-talking often begins in summer league and pickup games and carries over to the regular-season meeting. The game Dec.10, 2011, was marred by one of the sport’s worst brawls in recent memory. Nick Van Exel, an All-American at Cincinnati in 1993, said the rivalry is so intense a fight like that could have occurred any year. Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said every time the game approaches, “The whole city revolves … [For more on Five of college basketball's most heated rivalries, click here.]