UConn Basketball: Predicting Huskies Top Rivalries in 5 Years

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

UConn Basketball: Predicting Huskies Top Rivalries in 5 Years

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    When the music stopped the UConn Huskies were one of the only teams left standing without a chair in the epic game of conference realignment.

    The so-called "Catholic Seven" schools will be gone next year, forming a new Big East Conference, and taking many of UConn's natural rivals with them. They will also add Xavier and Butler in the fall and possibly Creighton as well.

    Syracuse and Pitt will join the ACC next season, and then Louisville will jump in 2014. Notre Dame has recently been rumored to be joining the new Big East for a season before also joining the ACC. 

    Joining the "old' Big East, or whatever the league will be known as next season, are Memphis, Temple, Central Florida and Houston. Tulane will come on board in 2014 and barring any future additions or subtractions will complete the new league.

    Who will UConn's rivals be in this new conference? It's not easy to predict but let's give it a shot.

Cincinnati

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    The Cincinnati Bearcats have one thing in common with UConn that they'd rather not. Both teams were left behind during conference realignment, being spurned by both the new Big East and other conferences. 

    Each team made a play for ACC inclusion, after Maryland announced its departure for the Big Ten, but were passed over for Louisville.

    A full Big East member since 2005, the Bearcats are shaping up as the primary rival for the Huskies in the new conference reality due to their proximity and the relative longevity of their rivalry. 

    It's nowhere near the ballpark of the competitions with teams like Syracuse or Georgetown, but it gives Husky fans at least one familiar and somewhat regional face going forward. 

    The teams split their two meetings this season with the Huskies winning 73-66 in overtime on Feb. 21 and the Bearcats winning 61-56 at home on March 2.

Temple

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    Of the teams joining next season's conference, the Temple Owls are one of the few with a genuine basketball pedigree that could become a natural rival for the Huskies.

    They've qualified for the NCAA tournament in the past five seasons and are in contention to continue their streak this season. They've made it to two Final Fours, albeit not in quite some time, and will give the new conference access to a big market in Philadelphia. 

    The Owls are the most obvious choice amongst the new teams set to join next season to form a rivalry with UConn. 

    Their location and basketball history make them the natural option for form a rivalry with the Huskies and it looks like it could be a good one.

Memphis

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    While Temple is a solid basketball addition, there is no question that the new league is adding a potential championship contender in the Memphis Tigers.

    The Tigers, with their six Elite Eight and three Final Four appearances, are well on their way to another NCAA tournament appearance this season. They'll benefit from playing in a conference with the Huskies, Temple and Cincinnati which present a significant upgrade from their current competition.

    UConn and Memphis are both nationally prominent programs. The Huskies' history runs deeper on the national stage, but it's easy to see how these two teams could become rivals fighting for dominance in the new conference for years to come.

    These matchups have dynamite written all over them.

UMass

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    UConn and UMass engaged in a long-standing and often played football rivalry, known as "The U-Game," between 1897 and 1999. The rivalry was renewed last season when the Minutemen jumped up to FBS football competition.

    It's easy to see how the rivalry could be added to basketball as well should conference realignment force a further round of shifting.

    With UMass currently in the Atlantic 10 Conference, which is scheduled to lose Temple and Charlotte after this season for certain and likely Butler, Xavier, Dayton and Saint Louis as well, it could be a good time to explore other options.

    One of those options would be to join a conference that includes UConn, Memphis, Temple and Cincinnati. That's a far reach better than Fordham, Duquesne, George Washington and whatever else is left in the A-10. 

    UConn vs. UMass makes perfect sense as a rivalry and the Minutemen make a perfect target for expansion going forward.

Virginia Commonwealth

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    Here's a pure hypothetical selection. 

    With the Atlantic 10 Conference likely being ripped apart by conference expansion, with several prominent teams already committed or looking for new homes, why not try and entice Virginia Commonwealth to jump ship as well?

    The Rams have had tremendous success in recent years as a mid-major that has done serious damage in the NCAA tournament knocking off such prominent teams as Duke, Georgetown, Purdue and Kansas. 

    The giant-slayers reached the Final Four in 2011 before losing to fellow Cinderella Butler, who would go on to lose the title game to UConn.

    VCU may not want to be left holding the A-10 bag either, and just like UMass, could be looking for greener pastures.

    The Rams provide a potential big program on the rise and location-wise could provide an nice rivalry game for the Huskies in future years. But don't sleep on them or they'll knock you down.