One of the topics of discussion during all this college conference realignment is the loss of football rivalries. We may not have Texas-Texas A&M anymore. The Pittsburgh-West Virginia Backyard Brawl may not extend. We may not have Missouri-Kansas. Even conference basketball rivalries like Syracuse-Georgetown could be gone.
But basketball non-conference rivalries could suffer. Not just rivalries, but big time matchups.
One of them is North Carolina-Kentucky.
These are two of the biggest blue bloods in college basketball. They have won 12 titles between them and their program's histories are all over the history books. Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp. Rick Pitino and Frank McGuire. Roy Williams and John Calipari. Today is the 12th straight year these two programs have met.
But it could end with expansion. Not like a Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry where one team is leaving the conference. No, it is because conference memberships are expanding which could limit the power of non-conference schedules.
Next year, the SEC will add Missouri and Texas A&M which will expand the league to 14 teams. That will most likely mean the SEC schedule will expand from 16 to 18 games. The ACC should see the same thing when Syracuse and Pittsburgh join up to the conference in 2013. With NCAA rules stating that you may only have 27 regular season games (along with a early tournament), the non-conference slate will really have to be contained. Right now, most teams have 11 games to play with. That could fall to 9 or even 7 in the near future.
So what's the impact? Well, you are going to have to pick and choose what games are most important. John Calipari tweeted to Kentucky fans if there was no other option, what non-conference rivalry would they most like to see end: North Carolina, Louisville or Indiana. The answer would most likely be UNC, since Louisville and Indiana are natural geographical rivalries that have gone on longer that the one with Carolina. The UNC-UK matchups have been big since both programs have been among the elite for most of the series, but neither fanbase would die off without it.
With possibly only 9 non conference games to schedule, you have to really be careful. While you cannot just feast on cupcakes, you do have to schedule them. Some are because you want your kids to go back to near the homes so their family can see them play. Almost all of them are only played at home to pump up the coffers. You also have that dead period in December when school is on break and there are few games played. So, as you can see, there is only a limited number of games to schedule those huge non-league battles where you face off in home-and-home series.
If you are Kentucky, you have to deal with Indiana and Louisville so that may cost you Carolina. For Carolina, you now have Syracuse and Pitt to deal with as mandatory games, so a game against Kentucky may not be warranted. With roster turnover the way it is, coaches may not want to over-schedule their teams and burn them out.