Goodbye Old Rivals, Hello New Ones — Five New Rivalries To Keep An Eye OnPosted by BHayes on September 17th, 2013
Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.
One of the many consequences of the past half-decade’s conference realignment frenzy has been the loss of cherished rivalries. Two seasons ago we saw our final Big 12 Border War, as Missouri bid farewell to old rival Kansas en route to the SEC. Last season we witnessed the final edition of Georgetown-Syracuse in the Big East, as the Orange split for the greener pastures of the ACC. And while the ACC will benefit from the arrival of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame, the conference will still be losing what could be considered their rivalry of this century, as Maryland heads for the Big Ten next year, in the process leaving behind their bitter feud with Duke. Oh, the memories! And while many of these divorcees have vowed to reunite in non-conference series down the road, it’s hard to always take their word for it (although Georgetown and Syracuse are starting to sound pretty serious…). So goodbyes there have been, but what about the hellos? We have been made acutely aware of every dying rivalry (jumping conferences tends to elicit just a little bit of emotion from rival fan bases), but seemed to have forgotten that the reshuffling allows for the potential of plenty of new ones to emerge. Circumstance will have its way in molding many new rivalries (who, besides the man capable of seeing overtime before it happens, could have foreseen Louisville and Notre Dame carving out a nice little rivalry in the Big East?), but here’s a shot at five new conference match-ups with a shot at becoming annual headliners.
Syracuse-Duke: Little explanation needed here. Two of the most decorated programs in the game led by two of the most iconic coaches in the sport’s history, and two teams that have been an annual factor in the national title chase for most of the last decade. This season’s two favorites in the ACC should take an immediate shine to each other, and for some added fun, how about the contrast in home floors at play here? Needless to say, cozy Cameron Indoor will offer a slightly different stage for the match-up than the cavernous Carrier Dome will.
Louisville-Memphis: Yes, we know – the Cardinals will be ACC bound in 2014 and this rivalry gone again, but the current talent levels and past history between these two make this one to watch in 2013-14. We do get two regular season meetings between the two in the maiden voyage of the American Athletic Conference, which will be the fourth league in which the two teams have exchanged pleasantries. And as they used to do in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Conference, and Conference USA, the Cards and Tigers will get after one another in fiery fashion, with the ephemeral nature of the reunion only stoking the flames.
Creighton-Butler: For those who were excited by the prospect of annual Butler-VCU affairs in the Atlantic-10, this congregation of former Mid-Major royalty will have to do. There are a lot of similarities between the two programs beyond their old resting place in the mid-major pecking order. Both schools lay claim to passionate, basketball-savvy fan bases, and on the court each has long embraced a team-first ethos that has sparked its success. Brad Stevens’ departure, Roosevelt Jones’ injury, and a relatively undermanned Butler team means Creighton will have the initial upper hand in this potential rivalry, but both programs looks built for the long haul.
Temple-Rutgers: This American Conference match-up involves a bit of a leap of faith that Eddie Jordan can get the Rutgers program headed in the right direction, but the softer conference lineup may also help facilitate that turnaround. The two schools are separated by just 60 miles, and while Temple boasts the more substantial basketball history, the RAC has always been prone to get a little rowdy. It might take a few years, but if Rutgers can gain a little traction in the new league, we might just have ourselves a little Mid-Atlantic rivalry.
Georgetown-Xavier: The arrival of Xavier to the Big East Conference will not go unnoticed, as Semaji Christon leads a Musketeer team that should be ready to compete from the get-go. Of course, their recent history is also quite stellar, so nobody is expecting Chris Mack’s bunch to drift too far from the top of the league in the years to come. Georgetown should also be in that mix annually, and as for the present, the Markel Starks-Christon match-up will be one to keep an eye on when the two teams meet. The beauty of this new Big East conference is that all of these schools and programs align well with one another, which should only promote the growth of natural rivalries. Where will the most heated of those rivalries crop up? It’s a difficult question to answer, but the strength of these two programs makes their match-ups a pretty solid guess.