Wednesday Morning Argument Starter
One of the most enjoyable things about writing a blog is seeing people's comments. Whether you agree with me, or you want to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, this is your forum as much as it is mine. In an effort to feed this beast, I'm introducing the Wednesday Morning Argument Starter. It's Wednesday morning, the week is starting to drag, and you need a few minutes to take your mind off work. Come to my site, where I'll post my top five list of some topic, and feel free to take your shots at me.
Since this is Rivalry Week in college basketball, I thought I'd give my selections for the top five college basketball rivalries RIGHT NOW.
5. Wisconsin – Marquette:
Besides being a geographic rivalry, in which the teams generally fight for the best players in the Badger State
, the coaches seem to genuinely hate one another. Bo Ryan never refers to Tom Crean by name and attempts to lure recruits by telling them that Crean soon will be moving on to a more high-profile job. He’s now in his seventh season, and didn’t have to leave Marquette
to get his high-profile job. The Golden Eagles are now in the Big East and Crean has taken them to a Final Four in 2003. Meanwhile, Ryan has the Badgers near the top of the Big Ten every year, and Wisconsin
is one of the country’s surest things at home (except against North Dakota State
). He’s made the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons there and nearly engineered an upset of North Carolina
last year. With both teams consistently near the Top 25, this game takes on new meaning.
4. Cincinnati – Xavier: Cincinnati
are often closely associated as a conference rivalry, but this is the battle for the city. Dubbed the Crosstown Shootout, it has a local chili company as a sponsor and has become an integral part of the city of Cincinnati's fabric. The Musketeers always seem to play their best when the Bearcats are among the nation’s elite. In 1996, Cincy came in ranked No. 1, and lost by two points. In 1999, the Bearcats came in again at the top of the polls, and lost again – by two points. Maybe their best game was in 2004, when Xavier won 71-69 and used the victory as fire to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament (beating previously undefeated St. Joe’s along the way) and march to the NCAA’s Elite Eight. The Musketeers won another nail-biter, 73-71 this year. With Cincinnati
’s off-court troubles in recent years, this has become the basketball equivalent of Catholics vs. Convicts.
3. Arizona – Washington:
The two locations couldn’t be more diverse. Arizona
sits in the sun-drenched desert of Tucson
in the drizzly lakefront of Seattle
is golf and Bingo, Seattle
is rock music and extreme sports. Even the coaches, Lute Olson and Lorenzo Romar, represent the old-school/new-school contrast of their communities. But both coaches love up-tempo basketball, and these two teams have put on some of the best shows in the Pac 10 in recent years. In this year’s 96-95 double overtime road win by Arizona, the Wildcats rallied from 13 down in the first half, then the Huskies came back from a seven-point deficit in the final minute of regulation. In the conference final last year, Washington
scored the game’s final 11 points to win 81-72. The Huskies, at 8-10, took the No. 2 ‘Cats to overtime in 2003 before losing at home, then got revenge by sweeping all three games the next season. This series can only get better and has the advantage of occurring twice a year.
2. Kentucky – Louisville:
Both teams are struggling this year, but history has to be considered in a state that treats basketball as religion. Rick Pitino’s tenure at Kentucky, in which he resurrected a chastened program, made him a deity in the state, but among Wildcats fans he’s now the great Satan. His successor in Lexington, Tubby Smith, took the team to an NCAA title in his first season, but has struggled to live up to his initial success before the sport’s most demanding fans. Still, he can claim a victory over the Cardinals this year, which in that state is enough to salvage a season. This is a rivalry that dates back to the 1950s, during a time when Louisville
bucked Southern traditions by recruiting African-American players while Kentucky
stayed all-white. The teams didn’t play for 24 years, but fate put them in the same bracket of the NCAAs in 1983, and they met in a regional final, which the Cardinals won in overtime. Like long-lost souls destined to find each other once again, UK
and UL met the next season and have played every year since.
1. Duke – North Carolina:
Always and forever. What would it take for this game to not be the biggest rivalry in college basketball? Well, maybe of one of the schools getting the death penalty. A new book title on the rivalry says it all: "To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever." The Duke-UNC games always mean more than any other, and they now have regained the star power to boot. Mike Krzyzewski collects high school All-Americans like Enron collected paper shredders. And Roy Williams has restored the luster to UNC’s vaunted program, winning a national championship last year and keeping his team in the Top 25 this year despite losing its top seven players. He's got another blue-chip class coming in next season. Every basketball high schooler in America
dreams of being courted by one of these two schools, the best ones are, and as long as that continues, so will Duke-UNC. Let me know what you think.