The Most Lopsided Rivalries in College Basketball Today
A vicious rivalry brings out the best in college basketball players and coaches—and sometimes the fans.
But what happens when one side consistently dominates its opponent? Does the battle lose anything in excitement or intensity?
In the case of these seven throwdowns, not so much. Victory is frequently sweeter when you're not used to the experience, and the fans on the struggling end of these matchups are always ready to party if their team gives them reason to do so.
These rivalries are dominated by one side, but nobody's about to back down any time soon.
Florida vs. Florida State
Series: Florida leads 43-22
Florida State showed some signs of life in the mid-2000s, winning four of five from 2005 to 2008. That includes two of three over the Joakim Noah-Al Horford-Corey Brewer nucleus that brought two national titles to Gainesville. Considering that the Seminoles only made one NCAA tournament in those seasons, those FSU victories qualify as substantial upsets.
Outside of that span, however, the Gators are firmly in control of this Sunshine State struggle. UF swept six straight from 1998 to 2004 and five more since 2009. The 11 wins in those two streaks came by an average of nearly 17 points per game.
The Noles seem to be at their best in this rivalry when they're overlooked by the Gators. FSU has recorded seven 20-win seasons in coach Leonard Hamilton's 12-year tenure, but only two of those strong years have included a victory over Florida.
Kansas vs. Kansas State
Series: Kansas 187-92
The basketball branch of the Sunflower Showdown was once reasonably competitive—then the 1980s happened. Larry Brown pushed Kansas to national prominence and Roy Williams kept it there. Kansas State was left in the dust.
Since the 1989-90 season, Kansas and Kansas State have met 62 times. KSU has won a mere six of those encounters. That's a winning percentage of .097. By comparison, Grambling State has a .106 percentage over the past three years, and that's with a winless 2012-13 season in the middle.
To put it another way: Even if K-State were to take three of every four regular-season meetings from now until the end of time, it would take 96(!) years to even this series.
When you've won less than one of every 10 meetings over the past four presidential administrations, a victory is the sweetest moment imaginable. Kansas State's fans flooded the court after the Wildcats' win this past February, helping to create a potentially iconic TV moment. ESPN reporter Holly Rowe was forced to hop up on the scorer's table to interview K-State forward Thomas Gipson.
As long as Kansas keeps raking in McDonald's All-Americans—Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre join the KU program this season—any KSU victory will be considered an upset, no matter how strong a season the Cats are having.
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Series: Kentucky 148-67
While Kentucky has historically dominated Florida throughout the history of their basketball rivalry, the two schools have ascended to a status as the SEC's preeminent powers during the Billy Donovan era. The series has shifted in recent years, with UF holding the advantage since 2005.
By contrast, a much longer rivalry is still firmly in Kentucky's control. UK and Tennessee have been playing each other since 1910, and the series hasn't been remotely close since the '30s.
Tennessee controlled the 1970s by an 11-9 margin but since then, it's been 53-20 Kentucky. The Wildcats have taken 22 of the last 27 meetings, with three of UT's five wins coming when nationally ranked. It could be worse, though. Adolph Rupp's Cats stomped all over Rocky Top in the 1950s, winning 19 of 20 during that dominant decade.
Former Vols coach Bruce Pearl loved to trumpet UT's finishes in the SEC standings, with the Vols finishing ahead of the Wildcats four straight years (2005-06 through '08-09). Even Pearl, however, could only win four of 13 meetings with UK.
Tennessee has more wins over Kentucky than any other school in the nation, but a few bounces are bound to go your way when you play for over a century. UT is no longer guaranteed two chances to make up ground every season, thanks to the SEC not rating its most historic basketball rivalry worth saving. You can bet your mother that a 100-year football rivalry wouldn't be flushed down the toilet so quickly.
North Carolina vs. NC State
Series: UNC 150-76
All the numbers are lopsided in Tobacco Road's "other" rivalry.
North Carolina has reached 18 Final Fours to NC State's three. Dean Smith won 60 games over NC State himself, only 16 fewer than the combined total that eight Wolfpack coaches have taken from UNC. State won the decade from 1910 to 1919—all two meetings of it—and controlled the 1950s. Those are the only decades to see State come out on top.
The Heels have hunted the Wolfpack mercilessly over the past 10 years, winning 22 of 24 games since 2004. Fans have collectively yawned, but at least North Carolina coach Roy Williams is still into the rivalry. "It probably means more to me than the typical North Carolina fan," Williams told the Raleigh News & Observer in January.
Most of the Wolfpack's greatest wins have come as part of what could be described as miraculous runs, including ACC tournament victories in 1983—State's national title year—and 1987, coming after a sixth-place regular season finish. At this point, every NC State win seems like a miniature miracle in itself.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/31/3580746/unc-coach-roy-williams-on-rivalry.html#storylink=cp
VCU vs. Richmond
Series: VCU 45-26
In 2011, Richmond, Va. was one of the epicenters of college basketball. Both the Richmond Spiders and Virginia Commonwealth Rams crashed the Sweet 16, a run that would see VCU advance all the way to its first-ever Final Four. Even with the rival advancing deeper in the tournament, UR had ended a six-game losing streak to VCU, making it a pretty good year all around.
The rivalry still hasn't been kind to the Spiders over recent seasons, with that December 2010 victory being one of only two wins in 13 meetings since 2004. Nine of those 13 games have been decided by double-digit margins, and fortunately for UR, both of its wins fall into that category.
The city rivals spar in a game referred to as the Black and Blue Classic, and it's once again a twice-a-year affair thanks to VCU leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the Atlantic 10 after that Final Four run. It's much easier for the game to become front-page news when the rivals can square off in January and February than on the crowded December sports calendar.
Now, if only the Spiders can keep from getting stepped on so often. The 2013-14 season marked the first time the Rams and Spiders battled three times in a season, but VCU took all three wins over a six-week span.
West Virginia vs. Marshall
Series: WVU 31-11
Fans of the West Virginia Mountaineers don't care to admit that the annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic against Marshall is an actual rivalry game. For that matter, neither does the school itself.
An intrastate battle once held every January—when football fans were just turning to college hoops for their sports fix—was moved to December in 2012, going head-to-head with college football's conference championship weekend. West Virginia gave its neighbor an ultimatum: Play us in December or don't play us at all.
For its part, WVU is doing Marshall a favor by keeping the series going at all. The Mountaineers, as a former Big East and current Big 12 member, have much more to lose than the Thundering Herd every time the two teams tip off.
West Virginia has won 18 of the 23 meetings since 1992. Of the five Marshall wins, two came over nationally ranked Mountaineer teams. In 2006, WVU center Kevin Pittsnogle guaranteed a win for the ninth-ranked 'Eers, but a Marshall team that would finish 12-16 that year pulled off a 58-52 victory.
To the Herd's credit, 13 of those last 23 games have been decided by six points or fewer, making the average game much closer than some on this list. Still, Marshall could use a few more breaks here and there to make this an actual battle.