Duke vs. North Carolina and the 20 Nastiest Rivalries in College Basketball

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2012

Duke vs. North Carolina and the 20 Nastiest Rivalries in College Basketball

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    The most unique and exciting aspect of college basketball is the rivalries.

    When two familiar opponents collide and state or conference pride is on the line, exciting hardwood drama is bound to ensue. The fans, coaches and players seem to be more intense because the stakes are high.

    There are numerous college hoops rivalries across the country, but which are the nastiest, fiercest ones?

    Let's take a look at the top rivalries from coast to coast.

Honorable Mention

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    Texas A&M Aggies vs. Texas Longhorns

    Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Vols

    UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats

    Harvard Crimson vs. Princeton Tigers

    UNLV Rebels vs. Nevada Wolfpack

    San Diego Aztecs vs. BYU Cougars

    Stanford Cardinals vs. California Bears

    Missouri Tigers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

    Wisconsin Badgers vs. OSU Buckeyes

    Oklahoma Sooners vs. OKS Cowboys

20. West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    The "Backyard Brawl" between the West Virginia Mountaineers and Pittsburgh Panthers has been a staple in the Big East conference for years.

    Over 100 years old, the rivalry is a battle for bragging rights between fan bases that are just 70 miles apart.

    Both schools routinely find themselves in the upper half of the Big East, which makes each meeting a must-win. In addition to squaring off during the regular season, the teams occasionally collide during the always-intense Big East Tournament.

19. Princeton Tigers vs. Pennsylvania Quakers

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    Familiarity breeds contempt, so if I told you that Ivy League foes Pennsylvania and Princeton have met 224 times, what does that tell you about this rivalry?

    Although it doesn't get much national attention anymore, this series is still extremely competitive.

    The two programs have almost exactly the same amount of NCAA Tournament bids and Ivy League titles. Recently, Princeton has had the upper hand, winning the last five showdowns against the Quakers.

18. USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins

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    The Lakers and Clippers have a newly-sparked rivalry, but the fiercest and most established rivalry in the city of Los Angeles is the Southern California Trojans against the UCLA Bruins.

    Both teams have fallen on hard times as of late, but proximity and pride keep this matchup intense.

    With their storied past and premiere pedigree, the Bruins have been the "older brother" figure for most of the rivalry. But the Trojans have had some extremely good teams of their own, and have won a Pac-12 title as recently as 2009.

17. Wichita State Shockers vs. Creighton Bluejays

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    Wichita State and Creighton have been competing for decades, and the rivalry has picked up steam lately because both squads have been mid-major powers.

    The Bluejays made the big dance six times in the 2000s, but the Shockers made a run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2006 tournament.

    Right now, both teams are tied atop the Missouri Valley Conference, which has become one of the best mid-major leagues in the country.

    A showdown this week in Omaha will determine who has the edge heading into the conference tournament.

16. The Philadelphia Big 5

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    Villanova, Temple, St. Joe's, Lasalle and Pennsylvania make up the Philadelphia Big 5, a group of schools who annually compete for city prominence.

    The overall group rivalry has lost some of its luster, but there are some individual rivalries that remain fierce.

    Big East competitor Villanova is the always-hated suburb school that Temple and St. Joe's try to topple, and this season, both the Owls and Hawks succeeded.

    St. Joe's and Temple have a feud of their own with Atlantic 10 survival on the line.

15. Memphis Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee sports fans love football, but I wouldn't underestimate their zeal for basketball. Memphis and Knoxville are home to one of the best hoops rivalries in the south.

    The "I-40 Showdown" involves Conference USA's Memphis Tigers and the SEC's Tennessee Volunteers. While both teams have undergone recent coaching changes, the fans and schools certainly haven't changed and the programs will bounce back soon enough.

    You don't have to look back too far to find a classic game in this rivalry. In 2008, No. 2 Tennessee went on the road to Memphis and knocked off the undefeated, top-ranked Tigers.

14. VCU Rams vs. Old Dominion Monarchs

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    The Colonial Athletic Association feud between the VCU Rams and Old Dominion Monarchs has all the qualities of a tremendous rivalry. It has history, familiarity and current-day competitiveness.

    Not only do these teams go way back, but as recently as last year they were battling in the conference championship game. Both the Rams and the Monarchs have frequented the NCAA Tournament over the past few seasons.

    Even though these are mid-major schools, this is the best basketball rivalry in the state of Virginia.

13. Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kansas State Wildcats

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    This rivalry might be one-sided as far as passion goes, and it doesn't have the magnitude of the border war, but this in-state conflict is turning into a feud every time they meet.

    When Frank Martin took over the reins of the Kansas State Wildcats, he turned a subpar Big 12 team into a conference contender. Now the Kansas Jayhawks have to fight hard just to keep the upper hand in the series.

    Naturally, the meetings in Manhattan and Lawrence have been amped up significantly since 2007.

12. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans

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    During the past decade, Columbus and East Lansing have been the unofficial headquarters of the Big Ten.

    Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans and Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeyes have ruled the Midwest in recent years, and their showdowns have been high-stakes entertainment.

    The arenas, fan bases, coaches and athletes involved all contribute to the overall intensity of the series. When these two schools square off, the atmosphere is electric and the basketball is as competitive as it gets.

11. Connecticut Huskies vs. Syracuse Orange

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    Syracuse's most traditional rival is Georgetown, but the Connecticut Huskies have become rivals with the Orange because these teams end up squaring off for Big East bragging rights so often.

    The rivalry features two of the best coaches of all time in Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim, and involves two northeast fan bases that are absolutely crazy about basketball.

    It also helps the rivalry when the two ridiculously athletic teams battled through a six-overtime game in the Big East Tournament in 2009.

    Games like that tend to fuel the fire.

10. Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. St. Mary's Gaels

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    The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Saint Mary's Gaels have one of the most unique rivalries in college basketball today.

    It's a series that still flies under the radar for mainstream college hoops fans, but it provides compelling basketball and immense passion from the fans. The matchup is an all-out war to determine who has the upper hand in the West Coast Conference.

    The intimate, small-arenas for each team helps provide a phenomenal setting. It's great basketball theater whenever the Gaels visit the Kennel and the Bulldogs visit McKeon Pavilion.

9. Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators

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    Whenever the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats clash, SEC supremacy is on the line.

    The two programs are at the top of the conference, and Billy Donovan and John Calipari try to squeeze every ounce of energy out of their respective teams when they face each other.

    The O-Dome and Rupp Arena are always rocking when Florida meets Kentucky. The fans in Gainesville have a particular hatred for Kentucky because of the Wildcats' history and national attention.

8. Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines

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    When the Michigan Wolverines collide with the Michigan State Spartans, there's Great Lakes State bragging rights and Big Ten pride at stake.

    Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo's recent quote about Michigan sums up the animosity between these two schools:

    "Do I respect John Beilein? Tremendously. Do I respect Michigan? Tremendously. Do I like them? Not one bit."

7. Syracuse Orange vs. Georgetown Hoyas

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    Syracuse vs. Georgetown is the most intense and deeply-rooted competition in the Big East, and it's a rivalry that might take on a different complexion once the Orange complete their move to the ACC.

    The classic battles of the 1980s heated up the rivalry, and the fans have kept it that way even when the teams haven't been so hot.

    Now both programs are back among the East's elite, so there's all the more reason for an electricity surrounding the series.

    2012 and 2013 will be the last time these teams meet with Big East seeding at stake, so it will be interesting to see who gets the last laugh.

6. Maryland Terrapins vs. Duke Blue Devils

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    The only thing Maryland natives hate more than taxes and bad weather is the Duke Blue Devils.

    This rivalry epitomizes the word "nasty." Duke is the glorified powerhouse that Maryland fans love to hate.

    In College Park and Durham, the games are physical and spirited, and things are probably even more spirited off the court.

    Fans on both sides are raucous, but in Maryland's case, the fans are particularly spiteful in their jeers hurled toward Duke players.

5. Indiana Hoosiers vs. Purdue Boilermakers

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    Indiana is the ultimate basketball state, and the most epic rivalry in the state is the showdown between the Indiana Hoosiers and Purdue Boilermakers.

    It's a battle for the crossroads of America and a fight for survival in the Big Ten conference.

    Although Indiana has won more national championships than Purdue, the Boilermakers actually dominated the early years of the rivalry and still lead in the head-to-head series.

4. Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Xavier Musketeers

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    When it comes to the "Crosstown Shootout" rivalry between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Xavier Musketeers, "nasty" might actually be an understatement.

    Unfortunately, this season's brawl overshadowed what is otherwise an excellent series between two programs competing for city bragging rights.

    Cincinnati is a larger school in a better conference and has more wins in the all-time series. Xavier, however, has won four out of the last five meetings.

    Can the Atlantic-10 standouts keep up their success against the Bearcats?

3. Missouri Tigers vs. Kansas Jayhawks

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    The "Border War" on the hardwood between Kansas and Missouri dates back to 1907.

    Missouri has grown to hate the Jayhawks, and Kansas has looked upon Missouri as its fiercest competitor.

    While the Jayhawks lead the all-time series, Missouri landed a huge blow Saturday night in Columbia by toppling Bill Self's Kansas squad.

    The prime-time coverage, arena atmosphere and close game exemplified just how explosive this rivalry can be.

2. Louisville Cardinals vs. Kentucky Wildcats

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    People from Kentucky love basketball, and the game that sets the whole state on fire is the "Battle of the Bluegrass," when the Kentucky Wildcats square off against the Louisville Cardinals.

    Kentucky is the big brother in this rivalry, and Louisville has never been able to string more than two wins in a row against the Wildcats.

    The competition got an extra twist when Rick Pitino, former NCAA Champion coach with Kentucky, became head coach of the Cardinals.

    Considering the passion and intensity that both teams and fans have for this matchup, it is undoubtedly the best non-conference rivalry in college basketball.

1. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Imagine what the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry would be like if the two teams were separated by 10.7 miles.

    That's what basketball fans on Tobacco Road enjoy with the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils.

    The Dean Dome and Cameron Indoor Stadium host one of the most colossal rivalries in sports. Not only are these teams consistently at the top of the ACC, they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.

    When it comes to college basketball rivalries, nothing compares to the Carolina-Duke war.