The Best Rivalry?

February 11th, 2010

Last night, Duke and North Carolina met for the 228th time to compete in a friendly game of men’s basketball in a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1920. The two teams meet twice a year, and if fans are lucky enough, they’ll face off a third time in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

We were treated to video flashbacks of all the great meetings between these two teams – and there have been dozens. Dick Vitale told us over and over that even though the Tar Heels are having a down season, a year removed from winning the national title, this rivalry has not lost its luster.

And it hasn’t. It’s the best rivalry in college basketball and you won’t find many people that disagree.

My college basketball allegiance is to Duke and it has been since the mid-1990s, but even as a wannabe Cameron Crazy, I have to admit that because they play twice a year, it detracts from the sizzle of the rivalry.

For my dollar, a college football rivalry has to take the cake.

Duke and North Carolina have campuses that are separated by just eight miles, and proximity is necessary for any good rivalry.

People talk up USC and Notre Dame as a great football rivalry, and it’s rooted in tradition, but fans from South Bend and Los Angeles rarely come into contact with each other. One quick glance at each team and it doesn’t look like they’re out there battling for the same type of recruits.

I have lived in Ohio my whole life, but I don’t claim to be a die-hard Buckeye football fan so I think I can withhold some bias. I’m leaning towards Ohio State and Michigan as the best rivalry in sports. When those two met in 2006 with the right to play for the BCS Championship on the line, the whole country tuned in.

Kids from Michigan play for the Scarlet and Gray and Ohio kids like Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson have gone to Ann Arbor and won the Heisman Trophy. They play once a year, and a loss in college football, especially one in the regular season finale, means a heck of a lot more than a loss in February in college hoops.

You have to give consideration to Oklahoma and Texas, a rivalry that features two teams who have combined to play in the BCS Title Game six times this decade.

The SEC is far and away the best conference in college football, so you have to consider Alabama and Auburn, as well as Florida against Georgia.

Florida is a hotbed for rivalries, with the ‘State Championship’ – the winner of the Florida, Florida State and Miami series – having full bragging rights.

So I enjoyed Duke and Carolina like always. It’s hard to go against Yankees/Red Sox, but when you meet once a year, it means more.