Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer 453d

The matchups we need to see right now in college basketball

Men's College Basketball, Arizona Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers

The most disappointing element of college basketball's past decade has been the elimination of significant rivalry games.

Indiana and Kentucky never returned after Christian Watford's buzzer-beater at Assembly Hall in 2011. Yes, they met in subsequent NCAA tournaments, but we lost a great in-season series. Missouri and Kansas is done. Sad.

Georgetown and Syracuse have reignited their rivalry. Perhaps Patrick Ewing will rebuild Georgetown and restore the rivalry's value.

But lengthier conference schedules, competitive nonconference tournaments and more pressure to win all diminish the likelihood we'll see any new, meaningful rivalries emerge.

That won't stop us, however, from dreaming.

Here are some of the rivalries we'd love to see in college basketball:

Wichita State-Kansas

Yes, the state of Kansas deserves this. But college basketball does, too. Wichita State is now a premier program with six consecutive NCAA tournament berths, a Sweet 16 nod in 2015 and a Final Four appearance in 2013.

Gregg Marshall makes more than $3 million per year, elite cash in college basketball. And he'll take his team's talents to the American Athletic Conference in 2017-18, where a bigger spotlight could elevate the Wichita State program to the next level.

In 2015, the Shockers beat perennial power Kansas in the NCAA tournament. Both squads will enter this season ranked in the top 10.

Seems like a perfect climate to announce a rivalry.

But ...

"This isn't knocking Wichita State," Kansas coach Bill Self told The Kansas City Star four years ago. "But if it was best for our program, I would reach out to them about scheduling them. But it's not."

The truth is Kansas and Wichita State can stand alone. They don't need each other. Wichita State's fan base swarms arenas around the country throughout the season. They love their Shockers and that won't change.

And Kansas is, well, Kansas, one of the best programs of all time. You can't find three coaches in college basketball who can say their job is better than Self's.

But this is a request. Please, make this happen.

Wichita State-Kansas would give college basketball a boost every season. Fine, play at a neutral site. Do it on a playground. We don't care. Just want to see it happen.


Last summer, Richard Pitino had just finished an eight-win season that fueled pessimism about his tenure. By the end of 2016-17, however, he'd led Minnesota to the NCAA tournament and won Big Ten coach of the year honors.

He also has established a rich pipeline of young talent that should keep Minnesota in the Big Ten title conversation in the coming years.

So it's an appropriate time to seal a series with his father's squad.

Rick Pitino is so confident in his team's talents this season that's he's hosting a pro day for NBA scouts and executives next month. The Cardinals will enter the season as a top-10 team and national title contender.

He faced his son's squad in the 2014 Armed Forces Classic. But that game meant little. Today, they're two coaches guiding programs aiming for conference titles and extended stays in the NCAA tournament.

They should play. And soon, since we're not sure how long either will remain in their current positions.


Make this happen, Chris Collins and Tommy Amaker.

Both teams enjoy distinctive positions in college basketball.

They're two of America's most academically astute institutions. In U.S. News' Best Colleges report, Harvard is ranked second and Northwestern is ranked 11th.

And they both recently ended historic postseason droughts.

In 2012, Harvard reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 66 years. Last season, Northwestern earned its first NCAA tournament invitation.

Coaches use big games to showcase their programs for top prospects. Imagine Northwestern and Harvard bringing their top recruits for basketball and their respective engineering programs to this game. Put them all in the front row: the 6-foot-7 forward with the smooth jump shot and the 5-8 kid who skipped three grades.

This makes sense for both schools.


Sean Miller and Archie Miller both control two of the most prestigious programs in America.

But a matchup between Indiana and Arizona will sell itself.

Add the sibling rivalry element and you have a blockbuster.

Per a report from FanRag Sports, the two schools have discussed a three-game series that would begin in 2019.

That's great news.

Also, first Miller brother to smile during the game loses.

Don't worry. They won't smile.


Maryland's move to the Big Ten in 2014 ended one of college basketball's best rivalries. The two schools have played nearly 200 games, the most memorable of which was Duke's 2001 victory over Maryland in the Final Four. The Terps won the national title the following year. Here's the thing: It's easy to restore this rivalry.

In the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, Duke and Maryland should play. Every year. This should be the rule. The two teams, however, continue to miss one another because Mike Krzyzewski has no plans to reschedule Maryland. "That's not gonna happen again, because we're not gonna schedule them," he said in 2013, a year before Maryland made the move. "It's tough to schedule anybody when you have 18 conference games. But when we schedule nonconference, it's usually outside of our conference area, so that we play national teams."

This year, Maryland will play Syracuse, and Duke will face Indiana.

Solid games. But Duke-Maryland is a more logical and enticing option.

Bring back this rivalry.

Gonzaga-North Carolina

Since 2013, Gonzaga has produced three NBA lottery picks. North Carolina had none in that period.

Last season's run to the national championship game altered unfair perceptions about Gonzaga. But their excellence stretches back to the late 1990s. Their matchup against North Carolina in Glendale, Arizona, did show the uneducated, however, that Gonzaga is a powerhouse program.

That's why Gonzaga and North Carolina should play each season.

The tired excuse from high-major coaches in these situations is they're worried about taking a bad loss to a smaller program. That's irrelevant here.

A loss in Spokane would do more to enhance North Carolina's strength of schedule than damage its résumé. And the UNC fans would swarm Chapel Hill for another shot at Mark Few's squad.

College basketball thrives on balance. And this is the kind of matchup that would portray the game's greatest asset.

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