College basketball thrives on rivalries. When two sworn enemies face off against each other for the first time during the season, you can expect there to be fireworks. The fire doesn’t burn out in that first matchup, either. The intensity only escalates as tournament positioning approaches and the rivals need a victory. Out of the hundreds of programs in college basketball, a good number of them developed a real hatred for specific teams. Get a load of the biggest and best rivalries in NCAA basketball.
Stanford vs. Cal Berkely
The on-the-court rivalry between Cal and Stanford gets a little overshadowed by their gridiron matchups, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that these teams duke it out on the court whenever they play. Both sides have had great players. Stanford hosted the likes of Brook and Robin Lopez while Cal has had Jason Kidd and Jalen Brown most recently.
These Pac-12 contenders have played each other hundreds of times but Cal has the lead in their series matchup (149-122).
Michigan vs. Michigan State
What a great matchup this has been, dating back to 1909. These Big Ten teams don’t hold back when they square off, with the history between them. They play for more than just bragging rights in Michigan. With only about 60 miles separating the schools, king of the city is up for grabs.
Michigan State has had the upper hand in their recent meetings, winning three of their last outings as of March 2019, but Michigan has the better overall record at 84-93.
Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s
Dating back to the days of the legendary Bill Russell, no one has been in charge of the West Coast Conference (WCC) quite like Gonzaga has. Over those years, St. Mary’s has been their toughest competition even though they have always been trying to catch up to the bigger-name schools.
Since 2000, only one school outside of Gonzaga has been the victor of the WCC and that school is St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s works with what they have while Gonzaga continually has the pleasure of recruiting potential NBA talent. Still, St. Mary’s always gives them fits.
Kansas vs. Kansas State
One of the oldest rivalries in the game of basketball is between Kansas and Kansas State. In their very first meeting back in 1907, the Kansas Jayhawks won 54-39. Fast forward a hundred and some years and the Jayhawks lead the series 193-93.
However, don’t let that record fool you. While this rivalry was incredibly competitive back in the ’70s and ’80s, today, Kansas has become one of the powerhouses in NCAA basketball while Kansas State watches in the background.
UCLA vs. Arizona
UCLA and Arizona have been standing on top of the Pac-12 Conference for decades. UCLA has been in the upper echelon of college programs for years, but Arizona isn’t a school to scoff at. They each have success in the Pac-12 (which used to be one of the toughest conferences) and in the NCAA tournament over the past decades.
In their all-time record, UCLA has a narrow lead of 57-43. Both schools have also dished out plenty of talented NBA players so these battles have been heavy throughout their rivalry.
Georgetown vs. Villanova
These two schools aren’t from the same state but being from the same region is enough to brew a rivalry. When you discuss the battle between these two schools, you can’t forget to mention their 1985 National Championship game.
The Hoyas were trying to achieve their second straight national title with Patrick Ewing leading the charge. Meanwhile, no one thought Villanova would even make it to the finals. Sure enough, Villanova pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history.
Indiana vs. Purdue
Do you remember when coach Bob Knight had a major meltdown and threw his chair onto the court? Well, that priceless sports moment came from a matchup between Indiana and Purdue. Both of these schools have been good for a long time, so that makes the rivalry much better.
Not only do these two teams have to battle on the court, but they also have to try and get the same in-state recruits! Indiana is a breeding ground for high end basketball but out of the great schools there, these two have to be the biggest competitors. Purdue leads the all-time series at 119-89.
Cincinnati vs. Xavier
They don’t call this the “Crosstown Shootout” just for fun. This is one of the most intense rivalries in the whole country. Both of the schools sit in Cincinnati, Ohio and have been rivals since both programs started playing basketball.
Imagine having a game canceled in the middle of due to a bench-clearing brawl. That happened with these two back in 2011 and several players got injured. Being only three miles apart makes this one of the closest in proximity rivalries in America.
Kentucky vs. Louisville
When these two play, it’s must-watch basketball. Every game feels like it has a personal touch to it. It all started back when both of the programs wanted to become the best school in the state of Kentucky.
Things really got going when Rick Pitino took over as head coach for Louisville back in 2001. This came after he coached Kentucky from 1989-2007 and failed as an NBA head coach. To come back to college and coach your former team’s rival would make anybody’s blood boil. Kentucky leads their matchups 36-16.
Georgetown vs. Syracuse
With as much history as these two have between each other, no amount of drop off in this rivalry would kill it. Thanks to Syracuse switching conferences, things between these two haven’t been under a microscope as much lately.
In the all-time series, Georgetown barely leads with a 51-43 advantage. Many legendary players have been a part of this rivalry like Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, and Dikembe Mutombo, to name a few. Hopefully, these teams can get things back to sparking again.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
These two haven’t played each other since 2016, with the Indiana Hoosiers beating the Kentucky Wildcats in the Round of 32. Before that, their last “scheduled” match came in 2011 with the Hoosiers winning on a buzzer-beating three.
We bring up specific dates because there currently is no renewal in sight of these two facing off on a predetermined date. We’d have to wait until a tournament of some sort for this classic rivalry to come out and about again.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
This is a classic rivalry and the first time we’re seeing the formidable program of Ohio State on this list. Let’s go back to 2013 when Michigan was on the verge of a perfect season. Ohio State saw that and shredded Michigan’s perfect chances.
After coming out to a healthy lead, Ohio State barely hung on to win 56-53. However, Trey Burke and company avenged this loss in a thrilling overtime victory one month later. Ohio State holds more wins in their all-time matchup at 97-77.
Kentucky vs. Florida
Out of the 132 meetings these two clubs have had, Kentucky holds the edge with 92 wins, leaving Florida with only 39. Still, the fact that Florida wins so little doesn’t discredit the fire these two teams bring when they play.
Especially back when Billy Donovan arrived in Florida as the head coach, things got heated quick. He led them to two national title runs before John Calipari came to Kentucky and made this battle a little juicier.
Duke vs. Maryland
Before Maryland left the conference Duke was in to head to the Big Ten, this rivalry was golden. Nothing will come close to their miraculous 2001 season when they met four times. they battled it out twice in the regular season, the ACC tournament and the Final Four (Duke went on to win the National Championship that year).
One of those victories from Duke came when they had to make up a 10-point deficit in only 54 seconds. That’s one painful memory Maryland fans had to live with for a while.
Kansas vs. Missouri
Since Missouri left the Big 12, the “Border War” hasn’t been as electric. This used to have the most bitter history in their conference so it would be sacrilegious to leave these two out of this list.
You know you dislike another team when your head coach refuses to buy gas for the team bus in Kansas because the tax money would support the Kansas Jayhawks. That takes a certain level of pettiness. The players always match that intensity on the court.
UConn vs. Syracuse
Before Jim Calhoun retired, he spent 24 years building the UConn program up and they climbed to number six on the all-time wins list. In that process, he had to go against Jim Boeheim, the guy who sits second on that all-time wins list.
These two schools first met back in 1956 and have played 95 games in total. Syracuse leads the series 56-39. Still, the rivalry was at its highest when both teams played in the Big East Conference from 1979-2013.
Marquette vs. Wisconsin
In many ways, Wisconsin acts as a perpetual spoiler. Their biggest rival is usually whoever is on top of the standings in the Big Ten, but their top single opponent would be Marquette. Since 1949, these two teams have played 80 times with Marquette winning 43 of those games.
The average point differential in their games is only 0.8. For those who don’t understand, that means out of those 80 games, the average final score has been separated by a mere 0.8 points. These games are close!
Iowa vs. Iowa State
What else would you expect from these two schools? This is similar to the Michigan and Michigan State clash, just the lesser version. Neither of these schools make much noise in their conference, but tend to cause a splash when the NCAA tournament comes around.
Usually, the biggest game of their season occurs when they go toe-to-toe for in-state supremacy. Iowa leads their all-time series at 45-27. These schools are top-ranked in Iowa as far as enrollment goes, so they need something to determine who has a slight edge.
Penn vs. Princeton
Throw some respect on this rivalry if you haven’t already. These two Ivy League schools have been playing each other every year since 1903, making it the third-longest consecutively played rivalry in NCAA Division 1 history.
Both schools have either shared or won the Ivy League conference championship every year (except for the 1986 and 1988 seasons) between 1963 and 2007. Penn leads the series at 126-113 and it doesn’t look like Princeton wants to stay behind any longer.
Duke vs. North Carolina
Are you serious? Did you really think we forgot about the most iconic college rivalry of all time? These two teams facing off is the epitome of what college hoops is all about. Like mustard and hotdogs, these two need each other.
At least, the fans love to watch it. The players, however, get extremely hyped up for the matchup as well. A ton of great players have worn the Carolina blues or the Duke uniform (think Michael Jordan, J.J. Redick, and Vince Carter), only adding to the legend of this rivalry. Out of their 163 meetings, Duke leads with 93 wins.