If I told you Team A had won 27 of the last 30 games against Team B, would you consider that a rivalry? How about if I told you at one point, Team C won 19 games in a row on Team D’s home court, would you consider that a rivalry?
In those two scenarios, Team A is UNC, Team B is NCSU, Team C is Kansas and Team D is Kansas State. These are all what I think many would call, geographic rivalries. But I can think of a thousand reasons why geography shouldn’t be the only dictator of rivalries.
I understand that notion that some rivalries are natural. UNC-duke, easily the best rivalry in college basketball, is a great example of that. But there are some legendary performances and games that have occurred in that series, and recently there hasn’t been a stretch nearly as one sided as the stretch UNC is on against NC State.
There is a reason that the best rivalries in sports are generally ultra competitive. You don’t go into those games and think that there is no way one team or the other team can or cannot win. In the games they’ve played, UNC leads duke 134-108. In games against NCSU, UNC leads 153-77. In games against Wake Forest, UNC leads 158-66.
If we are looking at the two relative to each other, the only factor State has over Wake Forest may be the fact that they are a state institution along with UNC.
Those are the three factors that should be taken into account regarding rivalries. I think the order should go: Geographic, type of institution, record, in that order.
I think sometimes journalists and journalistic institutions are too quick to push rivalries, like when ESPN pushed the the Syracuse/Duke game as a rivalry just because one game ended on an insane buzzer beater. It’s all about the ratings, but watch a real rivalry, watch the fans interact, that’s how you know the difference between a “rivalry” for ratings and a true blue blooded rivalry.