Old School – What Makes A Good Rival?

Old School – What Makes A Good Rival?

What makes a good rival? The general consensus is that Duke-North Carolina is the best rivalry in college basketball, but there are plenty of others that don’t get quite the hype. Syracuse vs. Georgetown, Kansas vs. Kansas State, and how about St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga? That’s always a good game. We’ve already seen one rivalry this year that ended in a bloodbath with Xavier and Cincinnati. This week is “Rivalry Week” on ESPN, so I figured it would be rivalry week here on Old School.

The week that was

- Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes gave Duke another home loss. Duke has an achilles heel when dealing with good low post players. Most of the Blue Devils’ losses have all come by the hands of good big men: Ohio State (Jared Sullinger), Miami (Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji) and Florida State (Xavier Gibson). North Carolina is up next with Tyler Zeller and John Henson.

- Purdue came up a little short in their quest to duplicate last year’s result of beating Ohio State in Columbus, losing 87-84. Right now, Purdue is probably on the wrong side of the bubble. A win against Ohio State would have really helped.

- Michigan State returned the favor by beating Michigan at home in Lansing, 64-54. Maybe we will get the rubber match in the Big Ten tournament.

- Iona’s Lamont “Momo” Jones scored 43 points in the Gaels 105-86 win against Canisius. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix was the guest host of the Dan Patrick Show today, and he believes they could have three future NBA players on their roster in Michael Glover, Scott Machado and Momo Jones. He also said there is very little difference between the Gaels and the Duke Blue Devils. Iona plays Nevada in ESPN’s Bracketbusters matchup on Feb. 18, and it will be interesting to see how they do against the Wolf Pack, who have won 16 of their past 17 games.

- Kansas lost to Missouri 74-71 in what could be the last “Border War” game played at Missouri. Mizzou heads to the SEC East next year, and there are no plans to continue the rivalry as of yet. What could be the last edition ever of the “Border War” is at Kansas later this month.

- A few days ago, I ranked my top-10 conferences this season on Twitter. I got a lot of grief from a couple of ACC fans for putting the Big 12 ahead of the ACC. So next week, I will rank the top 10 conferences and explain myself, and everyone can disagree with me in the comments section. It should be fun. Can’t wait!

March Madness Word of the Week

Rivals (noun):

  • 1. Two teams who compete for the same object or goal as another, or who try to equal or outdo another; competitors.
  • 2. Two teams, who compete against each other; one who you love passionately, one who you despise with all of your might. The latter you’ve even tried to use your Jedi powers against them during a game, despite the fact that you are not a Jedi, nor training to be one.


Down – Creighton 

After losing in last week at the buzzer to Northern Iowa, the Bluejays lost their second in a row to another middling Missouri Valley team in Evansville last night.

Up – Kentucky

Top-ranked Kentucky played No. 7 Florida last night, and it wasn’t even close with the Wildcats winning 78-58. There is little competition for Kentucky in the SEC, and you have to wonder if there is any competition in the rest of the NCAAs.

Down – Connecticut

UCONN has lost five of their past six, and head coach Jim Calhoun is out on medical leave. This is not the kind of play you expect from a team that supposedly has two top-five picks (Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb) and another first rounder (Shabazz Napier) in this year’s NBA draft.

Up – Louisville

After struggling towards the end of December to the middle of January, the Cardinals have won five in a row.

College Basketball 101

The Many Variations of Rivalries

Being Rivalry Week and all, I thought this would be a great time to go over all of the different types of rivalries from throughout the land.

Brother Vs. Brother – Any in-state matchup qualifies here.

Ex. Duke vs. North Carolina, Kansas vs. Kansas State, Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee

Also known as: “Cain vs. Able” or “Kane vs. The Undertaker” for you WWE fans (Hulk Hogan might call it “Brother vs. Brother,” brother!)

Warring States – Any inter-state matchup qualifies here. Often times, these schools are close to the states’ borders. They also have cool nicknames for their matchups like “Backyard Brawl,” “Border War,” etc…

Ex. Missouri vs. Kansas, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia

Battle of the Bluebloods – This rivalry can often be found in and around mailrooms and water coolers throughout the land. Most of this rivalry are just fans of highly successful programs arguing over who is better. Kentucky, Indiana, UCLA, North Carolina and Duke fans are usually at the middle of it from my experience (though IU fans aren’t as bold anymore). Only on occasion do these teams actually manage to play each other, but when they do, it’s always a big deal, whether we like it, or not.

Ex. North Carolina vs. Kentucky

Also known as: “I can’t stand these people” or “New York Yankees vs. New York Yankees”

The City Championship – A rivalry between two schools in the same city / suburbs. In fact, there are so many schools in the Philadelphia area that they all play each other annually at the legendary Palestra in what is know as the Big Five.

Ex. Philadelphia Big Five (Penn vs. Villanova vs. Temple vs. Saint Joseph’s vs. LaSalle), Xavier vs. Cincinnati, Charlotte vs. Davidson, VCU vs. Richmond, USC vs. UCLA

The Little Pest – A matchup between two schools where one should completely dominate the series due to financial resources, recruiting and overall talent, but the little underdog school somehow finds ways to beat the heavyweight. These series typically don’t last long because the heavyweight will remove the pest from the schedule.

Ex. Butler vs. the past two NCAA tournament fields, St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga for a while (they are pretty even now),Charlotte vs. Cincinnati  in the late 90’s and early 2000’s 

Also known as: “Big Mountain vs. The Little Engine That Could” or “Man vs. Mosquito”

Little Brother Syndrome – This rivalry is typically completely lopsided. One team is a blueblood with a rich history of winning, a large fan base and big-time media coverage. The other team typically fights for coverage in their own city’s paper, and though there may be times where they are good, they can never compare to the big brother up the road. Sometimes this rivalry is never even played on the court. The favorite has nothing to gain to play the weaker little brother and everything to lose. Even more frustrating can be when students of the little brother still wear big brother’s apparel on campus even though they never plan on attending big brother’s school and their degree will say “University of Little Brother.”

Ex. Davidson vs. Duke, Charlotte vs. North Carolina, Any school in Kentucky that’s not Kentucky or Louisville, ETSU vs. Tennessee, and many, many others

Short Shorts vs. Long Shorts

Long shorts have been winning this rivalry since the Fab Five made them trendy in the early 90’s. Despite never granting former player Todd O’Brien a release from the program, Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli does have a sense of humor. Martelli teamed up with Yahoo Sports to pull a prank on his team which involved throwback uniforms.

The week that will be


#9 Duke at #5 North Carolina – A heated rivalry game that will probably come down to how well Duke can contain John Henson and Tyler Zeller.

#11 Georgetown at #2 Syracuse – How does Syracuse keep getting all of their big games at home?

#10 Kansas at #6 Baylor – Kansas blew a late lead last Saturday at Missouri. Can they finish against Baylor?

Saint Louis at Saint. Joseph’s – The Atlantic 10 is a jumbled mess with Saint Louis and three other teams tied for second place. Saint Joe’s is right behind in third.


#13 Saint Mary’s at Gonzaga – This has been the headlining rivalry in the West Coast Conference in recent years though newcomer BYU is mixing it up with these two. Saint Mary’s has already won at home against the Zags and beat BYU at home and away. If they win here, it will just about complete their total domination of the West Coast Conference.

Ole Miss at #18 Mississippi State – I’m not real high on Mississippi State, but they should win this game in the battle of the Mississippis.

Illinois at #23 Indiana – Both teams could really use a win here. The loser will go to a game under .500 in conference play.

Valpariso at Cleveland State – First year head coach Bryce Drew has done well at Valpo in his first season. If they could beat Cleveland State here, they will sit atop of the Horizon League.


Iona at Loyola – Both teams are 11-2 in the MAAC, and this one will give the winner the first place lead in the conference. This game will be on ESPNU, so see for yourself why I’ve been riding Iona’s bandwagon.


#1 Kentucky at Vanderbilt – This is one of the best chances we have to see Kentucky lose in SEC play. Vanderbilt is a tough place to play with passionate crowds and strange court configuration, where the benches are along the baseline and the court is raised above the floor.

Connecticut at #2 Syracuse – This is the Orange’s other big rival in the Big East and yet again, it’s a home game.

#12 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State - If Ohio State can beat Michigan State, they will create a big gap in the Big Ten standings between number one and number two.

#6 Baylor #4 Missouri - This will be a big week for Baylor’s Big 12 conference title hopes.

#20 Virginia at #5 North Carolina – Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett has done an outstanding job turning Virginia into a competitive ACC team. To turn them into a ACC title contender, they have to start beating teams like Duke and North Carolina.

#14 San Diego State at #16 UNLV – San Diego State won the first game of the series in San Diego. Can UNLV return the favor in Las Vegas?

Wichita State at #15 Creighton – With Creighton’s recent two-game slide, the Wichita State Shockers are actually in first place in the Missouri Valley. Can the Bluejays take it back?

Cincinnati at #19 Marquette – This is an important game for positioning in the Big East standings.

#23 Louisville at West Virginia – See above.


Illinois at #25 Michigan – Tim Hardaway Jr. is shooting just 27 percent from behind the arc. He’s taken 137 threes. Maybe that shouldn’t be such a large part of his game…


#2 Syracuse at #23 Louisville – Hey! A tough road game for the Orange!

#10 Kansas at Kansas State – Here’s one of those Brother vs. Brother rivalries that I was talking about.

Iowa State at #6 Baylor – The Cyclones could use another big win against a ranked opponent to add to their tournament resume.


VCU at George Mason – The two are the class of the CAA this season. This one will be for first place and a good resume builder for an at-large bid.

Aaron May is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine. Follow him on Twitter-@pplcallmeblue.