Conference Realignment Brings a Sad End to Some College Basketball Rivalries

By Dennis Berry

Rivalries Lost

During the summer we watched teams jump conferences and for a time it was exciting. That comes when something is new and different. Now that the reality has set in we are seeing that college will be losing some long standing rivalries because of it.
Late Saturday night we had a great college basketball game being played in the Big 12 between two long time rivals. It was the basketball side of the "Border War" between Kansas and Missouri. Both teams were ranked in the Top Ten and the game ended in with Tigers going on an 11-0 run to win the game.

The home crowd at Mizzou Arena went wild as their team won. It was an electric crowd that may have just witness the last game Kansas will play in Columbia, Missouri for a long time.

When Missouri decided that it would join the SEC later this summer Kansas decided that they would no longer play Missouri. It would be the end of a basketball series that dates back to 1907. The schools have played 266 times on the hardwood with Kansas owning a 171-95 advantage in the series.

Missouri has expressed that it wants to keep playing Kansas on a yearly basis, but right now the Jayhawks are not interested in doing that. Kansas feels that if Missouri wants to walk away from the Big 12, and Kansas, then why should they want to keep playing them?

"Missouri wanted this. It's their prerogative." Kansas Coach Bill Shelf said after the game. "If it's better for them to be somewhere else, so be it." The "Border War" still has least one more game left in it. Kansas will host Missouri on February 25. It could be the last game in the long history for some time unless the teams meet in the Big 12 Tournament.

If it is the final game played between the schools, you know the Longhorns will always feel good about sweeping the regular season series.

The Big 12 is not alone with this problem.

The Big East shares the Big 12 pain. They too will have to deal with the end of long standing conference rivalries. West Virginia wants to leave the Big East after this season and join the Big 12. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are both joining the ACC in 2013 or 2014.

Conference Realignment Brings a Sad End to Some College Basketball Rivalries
Missouri Tigers guard Zaire Taylor (11) guards Kansas Jayhawks center Markieff Morris (21) during the Jayhawks 84-65 win over the Missouri Tigers at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.

What was has been seen as the best basketball conference for some time has scrambled to add teams to keep the conference together. Adding new teams will not replace what you lose with these teams.

The Pittsburgh and West Virginia first played against each other in 1905 and have played each season since 1918. They have played 183 times during since the start of the rivalry. West Virginia leads the basketball version of the "Backyard Brawl" 95-88. Pittsburgh could host the final meeting between the two schools as Big East members on February 16.

It is not certain right now that once the two teams are out of the Big East if the series will continue.

Syracuse is a founding member of the Big East in 1979. They are part of some of the best rivalries in the Big East. Syracuse-Georgetown dates back to the start of the Big East. They tied for the first Big East regular season title, but Georgetown would win the Tournament Title.

More recently Syracuse has fought for Big East supremacy with other teams. The rise of Connecticut under Jim Calhoun in the mid 1990's gave the Orange a new rival. Syracuse won its first title in 2003, Connecticut followed by winning its second title in 2004. In 2009 the two schools played an epic six overtime thriller in the Big East Tournament, won by Syracuse.

Syracuse will also be walking away from rivalries within its state as well. Rutgers and St. John's have battled with Syracuse for bragging rights in the state of New York. The Syracuse-St. John's game always draws a big crowd when it is played at Madison Square Garden.

The Syracuse-Pittsburgh rivalry which dates back to 1914 will continue when both teams move to the ACC. It is unknown whether the other series affected by conference realignment will resume in the future.

Some rivalries will be put on hold, but hopefully as time passes they will continue. Even though teams may leave conferences, there is no reason for long standing rivalries to end.

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