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You’re Nuts: What’s the best rivalry in men’s college basketball?

There’s absolutely no love lost between these programs on the hardwood.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 26 Xavier at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is July, so you know the Bucketheads are talking basketball. In honor of the Land-Grant Holy Land theme “That Team Up North,” we are talking about college basketball rivalries.

Last week, we debated which area of the game we think deserves the most attention on the men’s hoops team. Connor said on-ball defense while Justin said overall consistency. Connor wiped the floor on that one, garnering 91 percent of the votes, while Justin got a whopping nine votes.

Here are the updated standings after 109 weeks:

After 109 weeks:

Connor- 47
Justin- 46
Other- 12

(There have been four ties)

And now let’s talk about this week's topic.

Today’s Question: What is the best rivalry in college basketball?

Connor: Cincinnati and Xavier

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 26 Xavier at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you’re not from Ohio or a fan of the old Big East, you might not realize how venomous, nasty, and spiteful the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry is.

Once nicknamed the “Crosstown Shootout”, the rivalry that began in 1927 has just become more and more full of hatred over the near-century since. Cincinnati is a public school, and Xavier is a private school. The two schools are separated by less than three miles, making it one of the closest rivalries in collegiate athletics based on distance from institution to institution.

There were technical fouls issued and/or ejections in each game between 2008-2010, but things really came to a head in 2011, when an all-out brawl broke out in the Cintas Center, Xavier’s home arena. During the closing seconds of the first half, Cincinnati guard Octavius Ellis got into it with Xavier’s Mark Lyons and the two had to be separated. Before the start of the second half, both teams were warned that any further actions would lead to ejections.

Xavier was well on its way to a blowout win, and with 18 seconds remaining in the game, a Xavier player confronted the Cincinnati bench to let them know the Musketeers led by 23 and were going to win the game (something along those lines, maybe worded a bit differently). This set off the Cincinnati bench, and an all-out brawl ensued.

Players were punched, kicked, choked out, and one Xavier player’s head was even stomped on. Multiple players were ejected and suspended from forthcoming games, and the 2011 edition of the Crosstown Shootout was cut short with 9.4 seconds to go. Xavier won, 76-53.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office considered filing charges but ultimately chose not to. Because of the 2011 brawl, the Shootout was renamed the “Crosstown Classic” for several years before reverting to the Crosstown Shootout.

I reached out to Austin Elmore, the producer for ESPN 1530 radio in Cincinnati, about what makes the Crosstown Shootout such a nasty, chippy, under-appreciated rivalry in college sports.

“There’s legitimate vitriol between the two (schools). It’s the only hate I’ve come across that reminds me of Ohio State and TTUN. It could be May 2nd, and we have UC and XU folks trading blows,” he said.

“UC fans like to say Xavier isn’t even in Cincinnati, it’s in Norwood. That’s technically not true after assessing the maps — which is pretty funny because the University of Cincinnati is in Clifton. It’s a ridiculous rivalry.”

Justin: Duke and North Carolina

Georgetown v Duke Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

This is the one you think of when you think of college basketball rivalries. You think of JJ Redick, Tyler Hansbrough, Jay Williams, Shane Battier, Caleb Love, and many other players. You think of the students camping out, the Cameron Crazies being crazy, and Tobacco Road. The two teams have played 260 times since 1920. North Carolina leads the all-time series 143-117.

There is not much to be said with this one. These two teams hate each other, the fanbases hate each other, and the mascots hate each other.

A poll conducted by ESPN in 2000 ranked the basketball rivalry as the third greatest North American sports rivalry, and “Sports Illustrated on Campus” named it the No. 1 “Hottest Rivalry” in college basketball and the No. 2 rivalry overall in its November 18, 2003 issue. Obviously, a big factor in the hatred is the proximity of the two universities—they are located only ten miles apart along U.S. Highway 15–501 (also known as Tobacco Road) or eight miles apart in straight-line distance.

As a fun little tradition, one day prior to a Duke-Carolina basketball game, The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, publishes a spoof cover page for the day’s edition with the title The Daily Tar Hole. Contained within are fake news stories poking fun at The Daily Tar Heel and the North Carolina Tar Heels.

The Daily Tar Heel typically publishes former columnist Ian Williams’ “Insider’s Guide to hating Duke” for the two basketball match-ups each year. There is an agreement that if Duke wins the first matchup, The Daily Tar Heel’s masthead is printed in Duke blue, and if Carolina wins the first matchup, The Chronicle’s masthead is painted in Carolina blue. The losing school’s paper also has to put the other school’s logo in a conspicuous location and claim that the winning school is “still the best.”

Anything that goes this deep in tradition and complexity is a huge rivalry.


What’s the best rivalry in college basketball?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Cincinnati-Xavier (Connor)
    (8 votes)
  • 66%
    Duke-UNC (Justin)
    (38 votes)
  • 19%
    Something else entirely
    (11 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now