Rivalries heat up college basketball

Phil Consuegra

Rivalry week. It comes only once a year, and to a college basketball fan, that week is an equivalent to Christmas.

Each year, around mid-February, teams from across the nation gather in their respective gyms to prepare themselves for what many schools consider the biggest games of the year. For people like me, this is the time to be tuning in to sports on TV.

So what are these great rivalries? How did they get there? Why are they so important? And, the most important question: what are the biggest rivalries in college basketball?

Villanova vs. St. Joseph’s: Yes, I had to put our beloved Wildcats here, as this rivalry has been going on for decades. Deemed “The Holy War” here in Philadelphia, hatred between the two schools goes far deeper than basketball.

If a Villanova grad sees a Saint Joe’s grad on the street, only one of them will be walking away from the conversation. Add that to the atmosphere at one of these games, and you’ve got yourself a case of good, clean, old fashioned hate.

Kansas vs. Missouri: For two teams with a history of fantastic basketball, few can deny that this Big XII matchup is one of the best. It’s also a battle of the border, and the Jayhawks and Hawkeyes have been battling on and off the court for decades.

Although Kansas, as of recent years, has been consistently ranked higher and has been more successful under Roy Williams and Bill Self than Mizzou has been under Quinn Snyder, there’s a little more than pride on the line between these two schools, as bragging rights are far more coveted than rankings.

Xavier vs. Cincinnati: The city doesn’t have much going for it, but this rivalry is one of the best in the nation. Comparable to Villanova -St. Joe’s, these two crosstown rivals are just downright nasty to each other. Add into the equation Xavier’s tournament run last year and Bobby Huggins’ problems with the law, and it becomes a little more personal. They’re competing for territory like the Sharks and the Jets, and it never matters if one team is ranked and the other is not. Plain and simple, this is a war.

Kentucky vs. Louisville: This is always a classic matchup, and with the coaches, Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino, going head to head, it’s always bound to be a huge game. More often than not, both teams are in the top 15 and are both worried about seeding for the tournament. With Pitino playing coach at both schools, the rivalry has gotten even hotter in the last few years. The rivalry was so heated at one point that Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp put an end to it for 30 years.

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma: The Cowboys and Sooners love to go against each other. This intra-state rivalry has been quite the attention getter since both teams have risen in recent years. No team has given Oklahoma more trouble in football than the Cowboys, and no team has given Oklahoma State more trouble in basketball than Oklahoma. Funny, isn’t it?

UConn vs. Syracuse: This is always a battle of titans in the Big East. Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun have been coaching against each other for nearly two decades, and for the past few years, a spread shouldn’t even be made.

There is no underdog in this one, as both teams come into the game in the hunt for a Big East title and seeding in the dance.

Arizona vs. UCLA: From 1986-1998, one of these two teams won the Pac-10 Conference, making their yearly confrontation just a little more interesting. These two teams love to spoil the other one’s season.

In 1992, UCLA broke Arizona’s 72-game homecourt winning streak, and even Reggie Miller was accused of spitting on an Arizona guard during this war of the West. This rivalry has gotten much more interesting over the past two decades.

Indiana vs. Purdue: Take a basketball-crazy state. Add Bobby Knight and Gene Keady. Look at what you’ve got. Madness. Sheer madness. This is the rivalry in which Knight became famous for his signature chair-throwing.

As you can probably tell, if you’re not willing to take the heat, get out of the kitchen in Indiana. These two teams have always been successful, with Indiana winning five national championships and seven Final Four appearances. Purdue has reached two Final Fours.

Penn vs. Princeton: These two teams have flat-out dominated the Ivy League for the past 43 years. Forty out of 43 conference titles have been won by one of these schools, and the latest Penn comeback belongs in a class by itself.

The Quakers and the Tigers seem always ready to play each other, and the Palestra rocks every time these two teams play there. It’s nice to see the Ivy League making the list.

Duke vs. North Carolina: Michael Jordan. Bobby Hurley. Antwan Jamison. Christian Laettner. Need I say more?

For years, Duke and Carolina have always been considered two of the top programs in basketball. Lucky for the fans, both teams play twice a year. Nothing beats watching Duke and UNC play for ACC supremacy twice, especially when they’re facing off for the ACC Championship. This game is not only the top rivalry in college basketball, but quite possibly the top rivalry in sports today.

Well folks, it’s rivalry week. There’s nothing like some good old-fashioned gritty loathing among schools to get the college basketball season going strong heading into tournament time.