March Madness: Five of the Greatest Rivalries in College Basketball

Published 02/22/2021, 3:00 PM EST

College basketball is always exciting, considering it grooms talented players for the next stage in their careers. But it acts as more than that. It is a stage where the players embrace monumental rivalries by being a part of it. Why don’t we take a look at the five greatest rivalries before the 2021 edition of March Madness? 


Article continues below this ad

There are so many heated rivalries in college basketball and the games are just intense. Each rivalry has a history behind it, and the players competing in the respective teams would be hyped to go out and get the win against their challengers. 

The Top 5 college basketball rivalries 


Article continues below this ad


5. Kentucky Wildcats vs Florida Gators 

The rivalry between Kentucky and Florida is one of the most celebrated in college basketball history since these two teams go way back. These two Southeastern Conference (SEC) giants have been facing each other since the 1930s, and it was Kentucky that won their recent meeting on January 9, 2021

Moreover, it is the Wildcats who lead the overall head-to-head 104-40 and the SEC Championship series 3-2. A majority of Kentucky’s dominance in this rivalry came in the 1940s to the 1960s, where the Wildcats won 18 straight games!

4. North Carolina Tar Heels vs North Carolina State Wolfpack

This rivalry might seem one-sided, but UNC vs North Carolina State has been equally intense just like any other college basketball series on this list. 

Since the 1949-50 season, UNC and NC State have faced each other 173 times, and it is the Tar Heels who hold a 115-58 record. However, these two ACC teams never fail to put on a show when they face each other on the court.

3. UCLA Bruins vs Arizona Wildcats

The Bruins vs the Wildcats was one of the most revered rivalries in the 60s and the 90s. UCLA was incredibly dominant in the 1960s during the John Wooden era as Wooden guided the bruins to 10 National Championships. 

UCLA leads the overall series 61-44 and they’re also winners of the five recent games played between the two. What’s incredible about their rivalry is that UCLA and Arizona have combined to win 27 of the 42 Pac-12 regular-season championships since the latter’s entry in 1978.

2. Syracuse Orange vs Georgetown Hoyas

Although this series might have lost a bit of its magical touch due to Syracuse’s departure from the Big East Conference, a Syracuse-Georgetown game always delivers a different type of intensity. 

These two schools have met 95 times in the history of college basketball, and it is the Syracuse Orange that leads the head-to-head with a 51-44 record

Syracuse and Georgetown played their first game on February 15, 1930, but it was after the formation of the Big East in 1979 when the rivalry gained real flavor. 

1. Duke Blue Devils vs North Carolina Tar Heels

Duke vs UNC will definitely grab a place among the most iconic rivalries in the entire sporting world. Located just five miles apart from each other, the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels have gone toe-to-toe for more than a century, and that should tell you how great this rivalry is. 


Article continues below this ad

Their first meeting between UNC and Duke was on Jan. 24, 1920, a game in which the Tar Heels won 38-25. Since then, the two ACC giants have dominated their conference as well the NCAA Tournament. 

The fact that this is a rivalry between two of the most decorated schools makes it more enticing. North Carolina has the third most NCAA championships in history, while Duke sits in the fourth spot on the all-time wins list. 


Article continues below this ad

UNC leads the head-to-head 138-111, and these two teams account for 29 of the 65 ACC tournament titles which denotes their unstoppable dominance in the conference. Click here to learn about the notable games from this rivalry. 


NCAA Basketball: Who are the Top Scorers in March Madness History?

8 months ago



Arjun Athreya

2143 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.