College Basketball's 6 Biggest New Rivalries in 2012-13
The biggest seismic shifts of college sports realignment won’t hit basketball for another year or two, but there are still some noteworthy programs changing leagues as early as next season. One of the unavoidable pitfalls of conference shuffling is the loss of traditional rivalries, but the pain of those disappearances can be salved by the creation of some entertaining new matchups.
Missouri is the biggest-name school changing homes this year, with the Tigers coming off a 30-win season, and much has been made out of the end of its Border War with Kansas. However, the Tigers have a chance to start another border battle with SEC foe Arkansas…the team that also happened to steal Mizzou coach Mike Anderson just a season ago.
Herein, a closer look at Missouri-Arkansas and the rest of the best new rivalry games for each team that’s changing conferences next season.
6. TCU-Texas Tech
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The Big 12 has plenty of local rivalries for TCU to join, but the Horned Frogs haven’t exactly been on par with Baylor or Texas where hoops are concerned.
Texas Tech, on the other hand, has just as much history with the Horned Frogs—both are former members of the defunct Southwest Conference—and now has a new challenger for last place in a tough league.
The Red Raiders went 1-17 in Big 12 play a year ago and haven’t finished over .500 in the conference since Bobby Knight was stalking the sidelines in 2006-07.
TCU, for its part, has gone 13-33 in the Mountain West over the last three seasons, so they’ll be hard-pressed to turn in a competitive Big 12 season anytime soon—but vying with the Red Raiders to stay out of the cellar is a more reasonable challenge.
5. Virginia Commonwealth-Richmond
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When VCU departed the Colonial conference, they left behind some terrific in-state rivalries with the likes of Old Dominion and George Mason. Fortunately, the Rams will now get to settle old scores with another of Virginia’s top programs.
Richmond joined the A-10 in 2001, but prior to that they’d been a key part of the CAA’s Virginia connection.
The intervening decade has given VCU a chance to build its program up to the same bracket-buster status the Spiders have long enjoyed, meaning that the new version of this rivalry will be even juicier than its original incarnation.
4. Texas A&M-Alabama
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As the SEC recognizes, the Aggies’ natural rival from a geographic perspective is LSU.
The Tigers, though, are in such a downturn on the basketball court that they won’t pose much of a challenge for A&M, so the pick here is an Alabama team that’s been playing at a very similar level to the Aggies.
Both A&M and the Crimson Tide have been borderline NCAA Tournament teams in recent years, and A&M’s tough D will pose an entertaining challenge to ‘Bama’s typically athletic lineups.
LSU may heat things up with the Aggies in a few years, but for the immediate future, look for the head-to-head meeting with the Tide to be played with an at-large bid on the line.
3. West Virginia-Kansas State
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As tradition-rich a program as West Virginia is, it's hurting badly when it comes to natural rivals as it arrives in the Big 12.
With several states separating them from all of their new foes, the best bet for a rivalry comes from a program that’s been—like the Mountaineers—consistently tough without being championship-caliber in recent years.
It’s no great surprise that WVU and Kansas State have been walking similar paths, because the other obvious appeal of this rivalry is Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins, who left K-State to take his current job back in 2007.
Kansas State's recent success has been built on the same kind of defense-first mindset that fuels the Mountaineers—an approach that new Wildcat coach Bruce Weber has plenty of familiarity with after his years in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten.
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A nice geographical replacement for Mizzou’s Border War with Kansas, neighboring Arkansas will also be an entertaining foe on the floor.
Even with the Hogs trying to bounce back from a rough few years, they’re still a tough enough program to hang with all but the most dominant Missouri squads (which next year's transfer-heavy team won't be).
Of course, the icing on the cake here is the man in charge of the Razorbacks’ rebuilding project: Mike Anderson, who suddenly left Columbia just a year ago to take the Arkansas job.
With some of Anderson’s recruits still fueling the current Tigers—including Phil Pressey, pictured—there’s going to be plenty of pride on the line in these matchups in the next few seasons.
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By trading in the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10, Butler goes from a struggling, perennially one-bid league to one of the best mid-major conferences in the nation.
The Bulldogs—one of the nation’s hottest mid-major programs after back-to-back title game trips in 2010 and 2011—also have a chance to inaugurate a new rivalry with a long-standing power on the mid-major scene.
Xavier has been a genuine threat to the power conference big boys for years now, and the perennial A-10 contenders will be happy to have another high-powered team adding to their conference’s already-solid RPI ratings.
Geography doesn’t hurt his matchup any, either, with just a couple of hours drive separating the rabid fan bases of the Indianapolis-based Bulldogs and the Cincinnati-based Musketeers.