The 25 Bitterest Rivalries in College Basketball

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2013

The 25 Bitterest Rivalries in College Basketball

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    Rivalry Week is here!

    Huge games between college basketball teams that hate each other...does it get any better than this?

    We will get to see in the course of a few days great action and great passion!

    Michigan at Michigan State.

    Kentucky at Florida.

    And, the best of the best: North Carolina at Duke

    Here is a quick look at the 25 most bitter rivalries in college hoops!

25. Arizona State vs. Arizona

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    Series Record:  Arizona leads, 143-80

    Feel the Hate: Before an Arizona State vs. Arizona game in 1988, a group of 10-15 ASU fans taunted U of A’s Steve Kerr about the assassination of his father, who had been killed in Beirut four years prior to the game.

    Kerr later stated that the Sun Devil fans were shouting "PLO, PLO..." and "Your father's history," and "Why don't you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?"


24. Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's

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    Series Record: Gonzaga leads, 55-27

    Feel the Hate: Former Gonzaga center Robert Sacre hit the nail on the head when he described how things are between the Zags and Gaels:

    They hate us and we hate them. It’s a love-hate relationship. They make us better. We make them better.

    Even though Gonzaga has had a great conference run under Mark Few (conference champs, 2001-11; conference tourney champs, 2000-02, 2004-2007, 2009 and 2011), usually these two mid-major powerhouses are battling for the West Coast Conference title.

    Last season, SMC took down the Dawgs in two out of three games to win both the WCC regular-season and tournament titles.

23. Kansas vs. Texas

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    Series Record: Kansas leads, 21-7

    Feel the Hate: While this may be one of the more short-lived rivalries on this list, the games between the Jayhawks and Longhorns are usually "can't miss" games.

    Not considering the current season, these two teams have been locked in a battle to win the Big 12 championship on an annual basis.

    Over the last 13 games, KU has the edge 8-5. 

22. Tennessee vs. Memphis

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    Series Record: Tennessee leads, 14-11

    Feel the Hate: This one doesn't have as much history as other in-state rivalries. They've only been playing this series since the late 1980's.

    Memphis head coach Josh Pastner indicated that he had no interest in continuing the series. He doesn't see how it helps his program.

    As a fan, I think these kinds of games should happen every year.

21. Temple vs. Villanova

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    Series Record: Villanova leads, 44-43

    Feel the Hate: Two Big 5 rivals, two traditional basketball-first schools, both from Philly.

    Chase Senior of points out that "Temple and Villanova rank among the top-30 in all-time victories in Division I men’s basketball."

    In the middle of all of the college athletics realignment hysteria, Villanova allegedly blocked Temple’s full entrance into the Big East a year and a half ago.

    That should put a little bit more acidity in the stomachs of Temple's faithful followers.

20. Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

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    Series Record: Minnesota leads, 100-92

    Feel the Hate: This is one of the most tightly fought rivalries on this list. No one sided series here, but a annual slug-fest.

    Going into this season, the two teams had split their last six games.

    Both teams have the personalities of their respective coaches: Tough, intense and fighting to the finish. Both teams rely on aggressive defense and strong rebounding.

    If you like physical basketball, this series is one to watch every year.  

19. Arizona vs. UCLA

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    Series Record: UCLA leads, 50-37

    Feel the Hate: Some of the biggest marquee matchups during the Lute Olson (1983-2008) era at U of A came against UCLA. Lots of All-Americans on either squad.

    These schools aren't located at a close distance. But that doesn't stop them from being ready to throw down when the ball goes up.

    This is the classic intense rivalry that is born out of high-level competition with the conference title on the line over multiple years.

    This year, when the Wildcats had a chance to make a move to the top of the polls, UCLA was there to knock them off in Tucson.

18. Kentucky vs. Florida

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    Series Record: Kentucky leads, 93-33

    Feel the Hate: Sure, everyone wants a piece of Kentucky. When you've won more games than anyone, as the Wildcats have, you are going to have targets on your back, chest and forehead.  

    Bill Koss, Florida’s broadcast analyst, gives background to this rivalry. He said:

    The list of the fifteen largest crowds in Kentucky's Rupp Arena includes Florida four times. Not Louisville, not North Carolina, not Notre Dame, Tennessee or Indiana. The Florida Gators have the highest number of record crowds in the top fifteen ever in Rupp.

    He adds:

    The Florida Gators, with seven straight wins in the mid 2000s, have put a deep scar in the pride of the bluest of the program's blue bloods.

17. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

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    Series Record: Oklahoma leads, 129-94

    Feel the Hate: The Bedlam Series is aptly named because it's nothing but mayhem and uproar when the Sooners and Cowboys take to the court.

    Both programs have been up and down, but that doesn't change the intensity of the battles that take place every year in Norman and Stillwater.

16. Stanford vs. Cal

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    Series Record: Cal leads, 145-116

    Feel the Hate: The basketball version of this rivalry lacks the mystique of a menacing nickname (The Big Game) or a historical highlight involving a marching band, but the fans from these two Bay Area schools detest each other. .

    One of the unique aspects of this rivalry is having a coach that has prowled the sidelines at both schools.

    Mike Montgomery put Stanford basketball on the map, winning nearly 400 games (393-167) in 18 seasons in Palo Alto. And, in 2008, Montgomery did the unthinkable and crossed the Bay to become the Cal coach.

    Wow! Can you imagine Coach K going down the Tobacco Road and becoming the Tar Heels' coach? This isn't quite to that level, but...

15. Princeton vs. Penn

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    Series Record: Penn leads, 123-104

    Feel the Hate: These two teams have been going at it for a long time—every year since 1903, which is the third-longest consecutively played rivalry in NCAA history.

    One of the factors that pours gasoline on this fire is that this game usually determines (or at least impacts) the Ivy League's one and only NCAA bid.

14. Wisconsin vs. Marquette

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    Series Record: Wisconsin leads, 64-55

    Feel the Hate: Only separated by 75 miles, these two campuses come alive when the Badgers and Golden Eagles square off.

    The home teams have had a decided advantage in this series, with UW going 37-16 in Madison, and UM going 39-27 in Milwaukee.

    Both teams play tough, in-your-face defense, which adds another level of intensity to this battle for state bragging rights.

13. UConn vs. Syracuse

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    Series Record: Syracuse leads, 54-36

    Feel the Hate: For years, this was the battle between Boeheim and Calhoun. Two crafty coaches who had each won hundreds and hundreds of games.

    There have been tons of classic matchups between these two mega-programs, but none surpasses the Orange's six-overtime win in the 2009 Big East Tournament.

12. Michigan vs. Ohio State

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    Series Record: Ohio State leads, 93-73

    Feel the Hate: Current point guard Aaron Craft, who grew up in Findlay, Ohio, spoke of the hostility between the Buckeyes and Wolverines:

    It's Ohio State-Michigan. It could be synchronized swimming, you always want to win.

    These two notable programs meet twice a year with the results of the games impacting the Big Ten race. While the rivalry between the two schools is most hostile on the gridiron, the Buckeyes and Wolverines focus everything that they have on their two conference matchups.

    This year, OSU knocked off Michigan to end the Wolverines' reign as the last unbeaten team in the 2012-13 season. Were they partyin' extra hard in Columbus? Yes, they were. 

11. USC vs. UCLA

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    Series Record: UCLA leads,132-105

    Feel the Hate: The hoops traditions at these two schools have no comparisons: UCLA has won 11 national championships; USC has zero.

    The Bruins have 30 conference hoops championships; The Trojans have seven. 'Nuf said?

    But that doesn't change things when these cross-town rivals lace 'em up.

    As is mentioned above, the actual head-to-head series is relatively close. A USC coach can lose a lot of games, but if he beats UCLA, much is forgiven.

    This 2005 ESPN commercial shows the kind of greeting with which fans on both sides of this rivalry would welcome each other.

10. Florida vs. Florida State

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    Series Record: Florida leads, 42-22

    Feel the Hate: Two schools who are known for their football success have played a ton of tight games on the hardwood over the years.

    In fact, in the last nine times these two school have met, the Gators have only a 5-4 lead.

    The coaching showdown and the clash of coaching philosophies between Billy Donovan (offensive-oriented) and Leonard Hamilton (defensive-driven) is always thrilling.

    Even though the fans from these two schools use a lot of their hatred for each other in football season, they are less than hospitable when the ball goes up on the hardwood.

    Any chance to beat the other is more than welcome.

9. VCU vs. Richmond

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    Series Record: VCU leads 41-26

    Feel the Hate: Former VCU guard Brandon Rozzell matter-of-factly described the difference between the two schools:

    We consider ourselves the real Richmond school. We're in the middle of the city and the heart and soul of everything. They're more of an elite school, nice campus and all. I like to be where everything is at, not out in the middle of the woods and covered by trees.

    "The Black and Blue Classic" is the classic public school (VCU) vs. private school (Richmond) battle. Even their current styles of play present a stark contrast: Havoc (Rams) vs Tight-reined and disciplined (Spiders). 

8. Michigan State vs. Michigan

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    Series Record: Michigan leads, 94-75

    Feel the Hate: Current Spartans head coach Tom Izzo stated how things are in this way:

    Do I respect John Beilein? Tremendously. Do I respect Michigan? Tremendously. Do I like them? Not one bit. I don’t like anything about Michigan and they don’t like anything about us, and that’s the way it should be.

    Gotta respect Izzo's candor.

    Only a one-hour drive separates these two campuses. They compete for the same fans in the same state. And you can't cheer for both.  

7. Indiana vs. Purdue

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    Series Record: Purdue leads, 112-87

    Feel the Hate: In a state that is known for being basketball crazy, these two teams have battled it out for long time.

    Over the years, when the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have locked up, it has usually figured into the conference title. IU has won 20 Big Ten championships and Purdue has hung 22 banners.

    But, like most in-state rivalries, there is tons of bad blood between these two schools.

    "Dislike" is not a strong enough word to describe the feelings that each school's fans have for one another.

    Was it a coincidence that Bob Knight threw a chair across the floor after receiving a technical when his Hoosiers were playing against Purdue?

6. Maryland vs. Duke

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    Series Record: Duke leads, 113-61

    Feel the Hate: Duke's Cameron Crazies love to taunt Maryland fans and their Terrapin teams with the cheer "Not our rival. Clap. Clap. Clap clap clap. Not our rival. Clap. Clap. Clap clap clap."

    Martin Shatzer remembers, as a UM student, "riots on campus following Maryland's National Championship victory in 2002. Even after we had won it all, you know what we were chanting? 'Expletive Duke' of course."

    While more recently, this has been a one-sided affair (Duke has won 12 of the last 13 games), as recently as 2002-2007, Maryland was a major thorn in Coach K's side, winning seven of 13 contests.

5. Kansas State vs. Kansas

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    Series Record: Kansas leads, 185-91

    Feel the Hate: "The Sunflower Showdown" (Kansas is the Sunflower State) is one of the longest standing, most highly competitive rivalries in college basketball.

    From the fifties through the mid-80's, the Jayhawks and Wildcats fought tooth and nail. It was during Roy Williams' tenure at KU (1988-2003) that Kansas took over, going 50-6 over his decade-and-a-half in Lawrence.

    This week's matchup between Kansas and Kansas State has some sense of history to it. Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy points out that "K-State will venture into Allen Fieldhouse in first place in the conference—ahead of KU—for the first time since Jan. 30, 1988."

4. Cincinnati vs. Xavier

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    Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 49-31

    Feel the Hate: These two cross-town rivals have hated each other for years. The Crosstown Classic has been the venue for many a heated battle.

    Last year's brawl completely got out of control, with four players from each team getting suspended.

    Bearcats coach Mick Cronin was ashamed to the point of saying

    I have never been this embarrassed in my entire career...If my players don't act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati.

3. Georgetown vs. Syracuse

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    Series Record: Syracuse leads, 22-8

    Feel the Hate: When Hoya guard Markel Starks went to the Carrier Dome for his first Syracuse vs. Georgetown matchup, he said he won’t soon forget the welcome he received during warmups.

    As soon as I got on the court, fans were jawing at me. I heard some things I wish I didn’t hear. The best way I can tell [the freshmen] to prepare for it is to try to tune the crowd out. But it’s hard.

    With both of these schools leaving the Big East, I hope someone at these schools makes sure that they meet on an annual basis in pre-conference play.

    Too good to let slip away!

2. Louisville vs. Kentucky

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    Series Record: Kentucky leads, 30-15

    Feel the Hate: If you ask fans from either side of this rivalry, they would claim that this is the most bitter rivalry in college basketball.

    The Battle for the Bluegrass is an emotion-filled conflict that few sporting series come close to.

    Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde said it best when he put it simply: "Kentucky-Louisville is no ordinary rivalry."

    The roots of the rivalry have evolved. It is no longer about race and no longer about Louisville demanding a multi-level respect that Kentucky would not give – athletically, academically and socially. Those issues largely have been resolved.

    But this still is a deeply ingrained culture clash as much as a basketball clash. It is city vs. country. It is an island republic metropolitan area vs. a more rural demographic that stretches from the Mississippi River in the west to the Appalachian mountains in the east. It is the best urban-school fan base in America vs. the best fan base in America, period.

    One of the great chapters in this story is how Rick Pitino has coached on both sides of this rivalry. You can't write this kind of drama! No one would believe it.

1. Duke vs. North Carolina

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    Series Record: North Carolina leads, 132-102

    Feel the Hate: There is no more bitter rivalry in college basketball than Duke vs. North Carolina.

    The Blue Devils and Tar Heels have been two of the most successful programs over the last four decades.

    They are nearly next-door neighbors, and their fans can't stand each other.

    The fact that almost all of the games played in this series are ACC-title important takes what is an insane matchup and add actual league-play significance.

    There is no shortage of fan websites that rail against the other side of this rivalry. But I was particularly impressed with Duke vs. North Carolina: A Guide to the Rivalry

    The amount of time put into this is remarkable.


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