Dribbling Handoff: Duke vs.  Gonzaga, Kentucky vs.  Indiana among home-and-home hoops series we’d like to see

Dribbling Handoff: Duke vs. Gonzaga, Kentucky vs. Indiana among home-and-home hoops series we’d like to see

Duke and Arizona recently announced an agreement to schedule a home-and-home series beginning in the 2023-24 season. The series breaks a longstanding tendency by the Blue Devils to (mostly) abstain from challenging nonconference road games and sets college hoops up with what should be one of the best home-and-home series on the slate over the next few years. It also got us thinking about all the fun possibilities of other nonconference matchups.

A lot of quality games are played between conference and nonconference opponents alike that persistently deliver the goods, of course — Duke-UNC, Cincinnati-Xavier and Kentucky-Louisville all come to mind. There are plenty of other juicy matchups, however, that either haven’t happened recently, or haven’t taken place at all, and could deliver drama inside fun atmospheres.

So which nonconference matchups would we schedule if the powers-that-be granted our panel executive power for a day to put down any home-and-home series on the slate? Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander, David Cobb and myself each weigh in on that question below.

Kentucky vs. Indiana

Kentucky and Indiana met every year from 1965 through 2012. They’ve played a total of 57 times, these two massive basketball brands from bordering states with campuses separated by only 170 miles.

It was one of the great non-league rivalries.

But the annual series came to an end following the 2011-12 season — after Christian Watford hit one of the most memorable buzzer beaters of this century to lift the Hoosiers past the Wildcats — because the two sides couldn’t agree on how to continue it. Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted to take the series off campus and play it at a neutral site. But then-Indiana coach Tom Crean wanted to keep the series as-is and alternate between Assembly Hall and Rupp Arena. Neither man budgeted. And nothing has changed in the past decade. So now UK and IU do not play every year, which is unfortunate for a variety of reasons, mostly because having one fewer game annually between prominent powers isn’t good for anybody.

Though I understand the appeal of neutral-site games — monetarily and otherwise — I’ve always been a believer that college basketball is best in home venues. Gonzaga-Duke in Las Vegas was great last year — but it would’ve been 10 times cooler inside The Kennel or Cameron Indoor. And that’s why I appreciated the announcement earlier this week that first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer has agreed to take his Blue Devils on the road to Arizona at the expense of another neutral-site contest. Now wouldn’t it be great if more coaches of blue-blood programs were willing to more regularly do the same and give their season-ticket holders more interesting non-league matchups to enjoy at home? –Gary Parrish

Gonzaga vs. duke

It’s an encouraging sign that Jon Scheyer is willing to do what Mike Krzyzewski was unwilling to do for the final fourth of his career: opt in to home-and-home series against power-conference opponents. With that in mind, we’re not stopping at Arizona vs. Duke. Let’s keep it out west and get the Blue Devils to play a school that has offered up a couple of really great games in the short series history. Duke and Gonzaga have never played at each other’s home gyms. It’s not surprising, but it’s something that should end sooner than later. Just the visual is great. Conjure it up in your mind now: Gonzaga united inside Cameron Indoor; Duke players fighting uphill at the Kennel.

I know Mark Few wants it. Duke is on the very short list of big-time programs that have yet to schedule Gonzaga in a series, home-and-home or otherwise, and it’s a bit of a white whale for him. You have the ultimate Cinderella-to-Powerhouse going up against the most popular/polarizing program in college sports. Opposite coasts, two small universities that are among the two winningest programs of the past 20 years.

Duke leads 4-1 all-time, with Gonzaga’s sole win coming in Maui in 2018. All five matchups have featured both teams being ranked, the three most recent (2015, 2018, 2021) being top-10 affairs. There’s a long list of home-and-homes I’d like to see Duke sign up for under Scheyer, but Gonzaga has to top the list, certainly while Few is still running the program and the Bulldogs are Final Four contenders on an annual basis . — Matt Norlander

Kansas vs. Missouri

Rivalries are great and all, but rivalries with their own names, as Kansas and Missouri have with the Border War? Those just hit a little differently, you know?

These two programs hate each other. Double hate. Loathe entirely, even. This stemmed from a long in-conference rivalry that spanned more than a century before Missouri’s jump to the SEC, and it has never completely died off. While they’ve played only once since — a lopsided Kansas win in 2021 — the animosity on both remains sides.

This is exactly the type of nonconference showdowns that should be leaned into, not avoided, by college administrators, which is why I’ll tip my cap here as a nod to say thank you for the powers-that-be having this one on the docket beginning next season. (Even if I’d like to see it etched into the calendar on a more permanent basis.) I can’t be too greedy, so good on ya, Missouri and Kansas, for making this one happen — and let’s be sure to keep it in the regular schedule rotation for the foreseeable future. College hoops fans win when this rivalry is played. Kansas and Missouri fans win. When both sides are heavily invested, as they clearly are on both sides of the KU-Mizzou aisle, it provides a sports product that is incapable of being replicated. –Kyle Boone

Texas Tech vs. Michigan

Michigan star center Hunter Dickinson fired off a since-deleted tweet on April 29 calling Texas Tech coach Mark Adams “a coward.” The public shot from Dickinson was apparently tied to the fact that Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon was unable to enroll at Michigan. The allegation is that Adams wouldn’t agree to let Shannon take summer classes at Texas Tech after Shannon announced his intent to transfer. Apparently, that kept him from gaining admission to Michigan, at least according to Dickinson.

Instead, Shannon ended up at Illinois, where he will compete against Michigan in the 2022-23 season. Let’s capitalize on the offseason beef between the Wolverines and Red Raiders to give the fans a grudge match at Michigan. Then, the following season, the Wolverines can return the trip and maybe we’ll have a new, great rivalry in college basketball. Dickinson and Michigan coach Juwan Howard aren’t afraid to let their passions show, and Michigan fans would likely give Texas Tech the type of warm welcome that Red Raiders fans gave to Chris Beard last season when he returned to Texas Tech with Texas. That was an absolutely wild scene, and if we can replicate that with a nonconference series, it would be a blast. –David Cobb

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.