Opinion Sports Columns

Austin Rivers Shows Why Rivalries are Great

Jimmy Kelley

Assistant Sports Editor

For anyone who is a fan of college sports, or just sports in general, there is that one team that just makes your skin crawl. It may be the Yankees or Red Sox, Duke or North Carolina, or some other pair of fan bases that has had success, but the fact remains the same: nothing tops beating your rival.

Wednesday night Duke went on a 14-4 run in the last few minutes capped by an Austin Rivers’ buzzer beater to knock off bitter rival North Carolina. As an avid Duke fan, I found myself running around in elation like a 10-year-old who just got their first Nintendo64.

That is what sports can do for us. It can take a well-adjusted, somewhat-mature college student and reduce them to a lunatic living totally in the moment because of something that someone else did.

On Saturday night, Kansas and Missouri played one of the best college basketball games that I have ever seen. Much like Duke and North Carolina, these schools are very close and have been playing each other for so long that nobody in attendance at the first game is alive at this juncture.

However, with Missouri heading to the SEC next season, it could have been the last game we ever see between the two schools. This is the reality of this era of college sports where money and football rule everything.

Football decisions are endangering some of the biggest rivalries in basketball. Missouri is leaving one of the most competitive basketball leagues in America to play in the most competitive football conferences where they will be a non-factor.

This is not the first instance of this happening. When the ACC raided the Big East in 2005, taking Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said he would never schedule BC ever again. This effectively ended the only major college basketball rivalry in New England.

Now Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh are all leaving the Big East and some of the best rivalries in basketball. And for what? Money and football.

Games that are likely to be gone forever are Pitt and West Virginia, Syracuse and Georgetown, Syracuse and UConn, UConn and Providence, and Syracuse and St. John’s. These classic Big East showdowns will be replaced by Memphis and Southern Methodist or Marquette and Central Florida.

Fans are not going to want to sit outside of Madison Square Garden in early March waiting for tickets to see the opening round matchups between schools from the Midwest. The league was built on the backs of St. John’s, Georgetown, Syracuse and UConn and as of now, the only relevant one of those schools is bolting the Big East and taking their history with them.

Most rivalries will persist as some coaches will set their egos aside and still schedule those teams, but do not expect any more classics between UConn and the departed.

As we have learned in the past, Jim Calhoun is less fond of deserters than the military.

So enjoy the next year and a half of college basketball, because after next April everything is going to be completely different.

Jimmy Kelley may be reached at jkelley@springfieldcollege.edu

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