Three rivalries to watch in college basketball; three that are going away
Duke-Carolina might be in a league of its own, in terms of college basketball rivalries, but here are a few others that drive television ratings, rights fees and interest in the sport’s regular season:
This battle for the Bluegrass around Christmas each year has taken on even more significance now that both programs are ranked in the top five, coming off their Final Four seasons a year ago. With both teams playing in front of 20,000-plus crowds at home, Kentucky and Louisville are generally considered the two highest revenue-producing clubs in the country.
Big Ten Showdown
Ohio State-Michigan State
This one doesn’t make many rivalry lists because of the Buckeyes’ feud with the maize and blue team from Michigan, but Ohio State and Michigan State have been the two most dominant programs in the Big Ten and the two most likely to generate big viewership numbers, until Indiana’s recent uprising. The Buckeyes and Spartans drew about 3.1 million viewers in their regular-season finale on CBS, making it the second most-watched game on network TV last regular season.
This in-state clash generated enough intensity that it inspired former Indiana coach Bobby Knight to sling his chair across the court. Yep, Purdue was the opponent that night in 1985. The Hoosiers and Boilermakers might not have the panache of a Duke-Carolina, but with both programs on the rise, it’s sure to be the game to watch in the basketball-mad state of Indiana.
Going, going, gone
Conference realignment is bringing an end to some longtime matchups that brought warmth to the regular season in the middle of winter:
Unless the SEC and the Big 12 start playing an annual series of games, these two border rivals, who have met for the last 106 years, aren’t scheduled to play for a while. With the Tigers now in the SEC, name KU’s biggest rival in the Big 12. Texas? Baylor? Kansas State? Three KU fans might have three different answers, and that’s the whole point.
Battle for the East
The Orange are off to the ACC next year, so this showdown now comes with an expiration date. The loss of rivalries like this, which evoke memories of Pearl Washington, Patrick Ewing, John Thompson (the first GU coach) and Jim Boeheim, are what’s tearing apart the Big East.
The Backyard Brawl has been played for more than 100 years, but it comes to an end as West Virginia has joined the Big 12 and Pittsburgh is going to the ACC next year. These two schools are roughly 75 miles apart, but in this age of spreading conferences and realignment that makes absolutely no geographic sense, their spirited confrontations will now be just a memory.