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10 Best Rivalries in Men's College Basketball

College basketball has been around for more than a century now, and dozens of classic rivalries have sprouted thanks to geographical or conference proximities. 

Here are our choices for the 10 best rivalries. 

Duke vs. North Carolina

  • First Meeting: January 24, 1920 (UNC, 36-25)
  • Total Meetings: 260
  • Record: UNC leads (143-117)

This rivalry goes back more than 100 years to when Duke was known as Trinity College. Ten miles separate these fierce rivals, who have clashed in the ACC every year since 1953. 

The Tar Heels are third historically with six NCAA crowns, immediately followed by Duke with five. 

Dozens of future NBA players have crossed paths in this rivalry, often with ACC - or national - titles at stake. 

Kentucky vs. Louisville

  • First Meeting: February 15, 1913 (Kentucky, 34-10)
  • Total Meetings: 55
  • Record: Kentucky leads (38-17)

Although the campuses of these two Kentucky programs are only a mile apart, the schools only met 12 times before 1983. 

Thankfully, the matchup is now pretty much an annual affair. Kentucky has eight NCAA titles while Louisville has two. This rivalry is known as the "Battle of the Bluegrass".

Indiana vs. Purdue

  • First Meeting: March 2, 1901 (Purdue, 20-15)
  • Total Meetings: 215
  • Record: Indiana leads (125-90)

These two Big Ten staples have been facing each other non-stop since 1901. Indiana holds the distinct advantage in NCAA titles while Purdue has a slight advantage in Big Ten crowns.

As the two flagship public universities in the Hoosier state, their annual meetings bring a bout of "Hoosier Hysteria" with them.

Syracuse vs. Georgetown

  • First Meeting: February 15, 1930 (Syracuse, 40-18)
  • Total Meetings: 99
  • Record: Syracuse leads (54-45)

During the height of the Big East's prominence in the 1980s, Syracuse vs. Georgetown was the biggest game of the college basketball season. 

The Hoyas and Orangemen have each won a national title and made a combined 11 Final Four appearances. 

Despite Syracuse's departure for the ACC in 2013, the two teams have still met every season since 2015-16.

UCLA vs. Arizona

  • First Meeting: February 19, 1923 (UCLA, 43-30)
  • Total Meetings: 111
  • Record: UCLA leads (63-48)

Although they've only won the National Championship once since 1975, UCLA is still the men's college basketball standard with 11 titles. 

Their annual matchups with Arizona have been classics going back to when the Wildcats joined the conference in 1978 when the Pac-12 was the Pac-8.

Kansas vs. Kansas State

  • First Meeting: January 25, 1907 (Kansas, 54-39)
  • Total Meetings: 299
  • Record: Kansas leads (201-98)

The Jayhawks are one of basketball's blue bloods with four NCAA titles while the Wildcats have toiled in their shadows for more than a century. 

This matchup is part of the Sunflower Showdown between all sports programs from the two universities. This is one of the most played rivalries in all of college basketball.

Cincinnati vs. Xavier

  • First Meeting: March 7, 1928 (Xavier 27-25)
  • Total Meetings: 91
  • Record: Cincinnati leads (51-40)

These two Cincinnati schools have even North Carolina vs. Duke beat in proximity, standing just three miles apart in the Queen City. 

Known as the Crosstown Shootout, this is as fierce a present-day rivalry as there is in men's college basketball. Both schools historically play a brand of aggressive, physical basketball that delights fans on both sides. 

Michigan vs. Michigan State

  • First Meeting: January 9, 1909 (Michigan Agricultural 24-16)
  • Total Meetings: 192 (seven games vacated)
  • Record: Michigan leads (97-88)

This is another Big Ten rivalry that dates back more than 100 years, when Michigan State was known as Michigan Agricultural. 

The Wolverines like to refer to their rivals from East Lansing as "Little Brother", primarily due to their vastly superior football record in this rivalry, but the Spartans hold a 2-1 advantage in NCAA crowns on the hardcourt. 

Princeton vs. Penn

  • First Meeting: 1903 (Penn won)
  • Total Meetings: 248
  • Record: Penn leads (126-122)

These two Ivy League stalwarts won nearly every conference title between 1968 and 2007, a big deal in a conference that receives just one automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Princeton considers this game so important that it has scheduled the Quakers as the closing regular season contest on their schedule every year since 1995.

Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's

  • First Meeting: December 17, 1955 (Gonzaga, 94-77)
  • Total Meetings: 113
  • Record: Gonzaga leads (80-33)

Fans can be forgiven for thinking the West Coast Conference consists of just these two schools, who have won 14 straight and 20-of-20 conference titles in establishing this rivalry as one of the preeminent current matchups in the country.

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