The passion of college basketball is deeply intertwined with historic rivalries. It’s these intense matchups that define seasons, shape legends, and create memories that last a lifetime.
In this article, we’re diving into the rich tapestry of NCAA Basketball to explore some of the fiercest rivalries that have left an indelible mark on the sport. Buckle up, and get ready for a thrilling journey through the courts of history.
Arguably the crown jewel of college basketball rivalries, the clash between the Blue Devils of Duke and the Tar Heels of North Carolina is the stuff of legends. Their campuses are only 8 miles apart, leading to a hyper-local competition that has become an intense rivalry.
Roots of the Rivalry
The rivalry traces its origins back to 1920. Over the years, both teams have been consistently ranked among the top basketball programs, resulting in their matchups often having significant conference and national implications.
One game that remains etched in the memories of fans is the 2012 clash when Austin Rivers hit a game-winning three-pointer for Duke as time expired. It wasn’t just the fact that Duke won, but it was how they did it—coming from 10 points behind with just over two minutes to play.
The Battle of the Bluegrass State features two of the most storied programs in college basketball. It’s a rivalry that divides households and can make or break bragging rights for an entire year.
The teams first played against each other in 1913 but took a 24-year hiatus. The modern rivalry kicked off in 1983, and ever since, it’s been an annual fixture that fans of both teams eagerly anticipate.
A Game for the Ages
The 2012 Final Four matchup between these teams was epic. Both teams were vying for a spot in the national championship game. Louisville rallied from a 13-point deficit to come within striking distance, but Kentucky held on, advancing to the championship game and eventually winning the title.
Indiana vs. Purdue
These two schools, separated by just a couple of hours' drive have been locked in basketball warfare since the early 1900s, epitomizing Hoosier State basketball fervor.
Origins of the Clash
The very first matchup dates back to 1901, setting the stage for over a century of on-court battles. The rivalry grew not just because of geographic proximity, but because of the consistent strength of both programs.
A Game to Remember
In 1980, Indiana trailed Purdue by two with just seconds remaining. But a last-second shot by Indiana sent the game into overtime, where they eventually triumphed, adding another epic chapter to this storied rivalry.
A rivalry rekindled! For the first time since the 2011-12 season, Indiana men’s basketball and the University of Kentucky will resume their regular season rivalry. The schools finalized a four-year series starting in 2025-26 through 2028-29, college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reported on October 3. BetMGM Kentucky is sure to see a spike in action anytime these two teams face off, and you can bet Kentuckians will be rushing to get their bets in for their respective team.
In the heart of the Midwest, the Jayhawks and Wildcats vie for state supremacy in a contest often termed the Sunflower Showdown.
From the Beginning
First playing in 1907, these teams have faced off in more than 290 games. The longevity of this rivalry amplifies its importance, with both teams often jostling for Big 12 dominance.
An Unforgettable Duel
In 2018, Kansas State upset the highly-ranked Jayhawks at home, marking one of the most significant victories in recent memory and sending a clear message about the unpredictable nature of this rivalry.
While not as old as some of the other rivalries, when the Bruins meet the Wildcats, sparks fly in a contest of West Coast basketball prowess.
The Rise of a Rivalry
The rivalry intensified in the 1980s and 1990s when both programs were consistently competing for Pac-10 titles. Their matchups often decide the trajectory of the conference championship.
A Matchup for the Ages
In the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona sought revenge for two regular season losses to UCLA. However, the Bruins stood firm, securing a narrow three-point victory in a tension-filled thriller.
In a state obsessed with basketball, the Wolverines and Spartans bring everything to their confrontations, leading to some of the most electric atmospheres in college basketball.
Dating back to 1909, these in-state foes have faced off over 180 times, with both teams frequently appearing in the national rankings, adding fuel to their fiery clashes.
A Modern Classic
In 2019, with Big Ten regular season title implications on the line, the Spartans managed to overturn a halftime deficit to secure a victory, showcasing the never-say-die spirit of this rivalry.
A Big East spectacle, when the Wildcats face the Hoyas, it’s more than just a game – it’s a deep-rooted tradition.
The rivalry reached its zenith in the 1980s, with both teams often vying for conference titles. The intensity on and off the court has made this one of the must-watch matchups every season.
The Epic of ‘85
The 1985 NCAA Championship game saw an underdog Villanova squad face the heavily favored Hoyas. In a stunning turn of events, Villanova secured a two-point victory in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history.
From the intense matchups along Tobacco Road between Duke and North Carolina to the Pacific-12 battles between UCLA and Arizona, college basketball is imbued with rivalries that define generations. The fervor of Kentucky vs. Louisville, the pride at stake between Indiana and Purdue, the Sunflower Showdown of Kansas, the state divides in the Michigan showdown, and the Big East legacy of Villanova vs. Georgetown—each rivalry paints a unique, vibrant picture of regional pride, history, and basketball excellence.
These aren’t just games. They’re a culmination of traditions, histories, and moments that have shaped the landscape of college basketball. As we anticipate future clashes, it’s evident that these rivalries, embedded deep within the heart of the sport, will continue to ignite passion and create unforgettable memories for players and fans alike.