Ranking the Top 8 College Basketball Rivalries

Ranking the Top 8 College Basketball Rivalries

The NCAA basketball season is upon us, and with it comes some of the biggest rivalries in sports. From Duke vs. UNC to KU vs. Mizzou, college basketball history has been filled with some of the best sporting rivalries ever. That's why we've put together a list of the top ten NCAA basketball rivalries in history as you get ready for another thrilling season on the court!

Whether you’re an avid fan, a current college student, or simply looking for something new to watch this year, take a look at our ranking of the biggest rivalries in college basketball games that have taken place throughout the years.


8. Ohio State vs. Michigan

The rivalry between Ohio State and the University of Michigan is a great way to kick off our last. Although it's not quite as epic as "The Game" match-up out on the college football field, the rivalry between these two stories programs is still fascinating.

Dating back to 1909, the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes have faced off 189 times, providing some of the most thrilling games in NCAA history. Both teams have a rich tradition of success on the court, with Ohio State boasting 27 NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 Final Four appearances versus Michigan's 31 Tournament appearances and eight Final Fours.

This rivalry has featured some of the best players in college basketball, including John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State and Cazzie Russell, Glen Rice, and Chris Webber from Michigan.

In recent years, the rivalry games have been highly contested, with both teams trading wins since 2012. The last seven matchups between these two schools have been decided by single digits, making for an electric atmosphere inside Value City Arena. With both teams hoping for success this upcoming season, expect another classic when they meet on the court!

7. Arizona State vs. Arizona

The rivalry between Arizona State and the University of Arizona is one of the most intense rivalries in all of college basketball. Dating back to 1913, these two teams have faced each other almost 250 times, providing some of the most thrilling games and memorable moments in NCAA history.

Both teams have produced many great players over the years, including James Harden, Byron Scott, and Tommy Smith from Arizona State, as well as Jason Terry, Sean Elliott, and Richard Jefferson from Arizona.

In recent years, the rivalry between these two schools has been fierce with the teams often competing closely wins since 2009. With both programs consistently atop the rankings across the nation, fans can expect another incredible matchup when they meet on the court this upcoming season!


6. Illinois vs. Northwestern

The basketball rivalry between the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University dates back to 1908, making it one of the oldest rivalries in college basketball. For decades, these two teams have faced off on the court, providing some of the most memorable moments in NCAA history.

U of I holds a solid edge in all-time wins, with 142 victories against Northwestern’s 44. This storied rivalry has seen its share of legendary players, such as former NBA greats Deron Williams and Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois and John Shurna from Northwestern.

While both teams have had their ups and downs over the years, each matchup is always highly anticipated by fans from both schools. Recently, U of I has dominated the series, with 11 wins in the last 14 games against Northwestern that firmly establish the Fighting Illini as the victor in this epic rivalry.

5. UCLA vs. USC

Dating back to a three-game series in 1928, these two Los Angeles-based teams have had multiple notable match-ups throughout the history of the NCAA. For a brief time between 1932-1943, USC actually held the edge over UCLA in a 41-game winning streak.

When head coach John Wooden turned UCLA into an undefeated college basketball powerhouse, however, the tide turned. Although USC dealt Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then named Lew Alcindor) one of his two losses as a college player, UCLA beat out its rival in the subsequent years. This includes several of John Wooden's historic 10 March Madness wins.

Every year, fans from both schools come out to support their team and create an electric atmosphere inside “the house that Wooden built” — UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. Currently, UCLA decisively leads the series 148-113, but each matchup still carries an immense sense of excitement and anticipation as no one knows which way it will go when they meet again.


4. Indiana vs. Purdue

The Indiana University Bloomington and Purdue University basketball rivalry has been another fiercely contested one. Dating back to 1901, which ended under disputed terms, these two teams have faced each other more than 215 times, providing some of the best highlights in NCAA history.

With both teams representing the same state and facing off in the Big Ten Conference, this rivalry has been long-standing and intense. While Purdue historically holds a strong lead in wins with 125-92, IU has appeared in eight times as many March Madness tournaments.

This rivalry has featured some great college basketball players, including Victor Oladipo and Isiah Thomas from IU and JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel, and Caleb Swanigan from Purdue. The battles between these two teams have consistently produced overtime games, thrilling comebacks, and buzzer-beaters that keep the fans on their feet every time they meet on the court.

3. Kansas vs. Missouri

The so-called "Border War" between the University of Kansas and Mizzou started in 1907 when basketball inventor Coach James Naismith's KU Jayhawks were defeated by Missouri in two back-to-back games. Since then, the "Border Showdown" has been a fierce battle between two teams from two neighboring states with long histories of bitter rivalries.

This rivalry has seen some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys for both teams, but they continue to bring out their best performances every time they play each other. KU has historically gotten the last laugh by getting the upper hand over Mizzou, with an all-time record of 176-95 against its rival. However, Mizzou has had its bright spots as well, with 15 Big Eight conference titles.

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2. Kentucky vs. Louisville

Though the two teams haven't faced off against each other as many times as some of the entries on this list, the Wildcats-Cardinals rivalry has consistently been named a crowd-pleaser by sports journalists.

The Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals have been playing each other since 1913, and in that time they have developed a great sense of animosity and competition. This rivalry has been made all the more intense by recent success from both sides, with UK winning eight NCAA National Championships (second only to UCLA's record 11 March Madness titles!) and Louisville winning two.

When these two squads take to the court it is always an electric atmosphere, with fans from both sides coming out to support their team. Whether it’s played at Rupp Arena in Lexington or in Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, this matchup brings out fans and creates a buzz around the entire state of Kentucky every year.

Historically, UK leads the series with a record of 38-17 against Louisville, but with both teams being highly ranked for this upcoming season, this rivalry game promises to be one for the ages!

Honorable Mention: The "Sunflower Showdown" between KU and K-State is another one for the record books!

1. Duke vs. North Carolina

The Duke vs. UNC rivalry is one of the most iconic matchups in all of college sports. The two teams have played each other 260 times since 1920, with the North Carolina Tar Heels starting things off strong with a 36-25 victory over the Duke Blue Devils.

This college basketball rivalry has provided many memorable moments and iconic games in NCAA basketball history, including the "Cameron Crazies" (Duke's home crowd) going wild with chants of "Air ball!" during a Senior Day game in 1979, UNC's center Eric Montross taking a beating during a 1992 game, and the rival teams' first March Madness match-up in 2022.

Every time these two teams meet on the court, it is guaranteed to be a thrilling match that will go down in history. Beyond being an intense rivalry game full of emotion, adrenaline, and an occasional elbow to the face, it is also a representation of two top academic institutions located just eight miles apart from each other.

More recently, both basketball teams have seen high levels of success, with about half a dozen NCAA Championships and tournament runner-up years each, plus dozens of All-American players under their belt – all of which only adds fuel to this fire!

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The most historic and hard-fought rivalries in NCAA basketball provide some of the most thrilling and memorable moments in all of sports. From UCLA vs. USC to Ohio State vs. Michigan, each matchup is highly anticipated by college basketball fans from each school as they strive for bragging rights.

While some teams have dominated their rivals historically, recent results have sometimes seen the gap grow closer.

Whether you’re an avid college basketball fan, a casual supporter, or just someone who enjoys watching the fierce competition between two evenly-matched opponents in any sport, these epic rivalries will not disappoint!

So grab your popcorn and get geared up for another exciting season of NCAA basketball as we witness history being made every time these historic programs face off against each other this year!
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