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Bar Room Bicker 3

January 9, 2003 Featured No Comments

Bar Room Bicker – Big Sky vs. West Coast

by James Burns and Nicholas Lozito

Note: This is the third installation of The Bar Room Bicker, which pits two college basketball enthusiasts against one another. James Burns and Nicholas Lozito are Hoopville Staff writers, and each week the two pick an array of topics and argue their sides.

Which is the better rivalry: Duke-North Carolina or Kentucky-Louisville?

Nicholas Lozito: The rivalry in the Bluegrass state (Kentucky) has now passed the one down in Tobacco Road, and it is mostly because of one man: Rick Pitino. When Pitino left Lexington to coach in the NBA it caused concern among Kentucky fans. When he came back to coach Louisville it sparked college basketball’s greatest rivalry. To fuel the fire, Kentucky is a state that practically lives and breathes basketball.

The Cardinals recently upset the Wildcats, 81-63, in a game where Marvin Stone, who transferred from Kentucky to Louisville, led the Cardinals with sixteen points. This rivalry isn’t about tradition, or which team owns the all-time record. It’s about a legendary coach pitting his up-and-coming team against the powerhouse school he used to coach. And they are only miles apart.

James Burns: I can’t believe we are even here having this discussion. Are we seriously debating whether Kentucky-Louisville is a better rivalry than Duke-North Carolina? There really is no contest here. There really is no contest in the entire NCAA field that compares to Tobacco Road. I don’t know if there ever could be.

The one very big thing that separates these two rivalries is that while the state of Kentucky sits on their edge of their seats watching the Kentucky-Louisville game unfold, the entire nation waits in the balance when Duke and North Carolina play. Every time. The two teams could be mired in slumps and their game would still be broadcasted into every living room across the nation, gripping the nation as they beat up on each other.

Is there still a bias in the media (polls and coverage) against teams in the west?

NL: You know there is no West Coast bias when Arizona is ranked No. 1 in the preseason. The only reason that West Coast teams drop in the polls is because they lose to schools like LSU. Another problem with the West Coast is there is only one powerhouse conference, the Pac-10. And within the Pac-10, there is only one team – UCLA – with a tradition that rivals schools like North Carolina and Kentucky. Teams like Arizona, Stanford, Gonzaga and Oregon have only emerged in the past decade. This makes it even more difficult for television networks to give the west adequate coverage, because they don’t know which teams will be contenders. The Pac-10 is a perennial revolving door of top teams.

After UCLA’s run of ten championships in twelve years, only three teams from the west – UNLV, UCLA and Arizona – have won championships in the past 27 years. Of course television stations put on more ACC, SEC and Big Ten games, because these are the conferences that produce champions. Of course writers put teams like Kentucky, Duke and Maryland high in the polls year after year, because teams like Arizona lose to LSU.

JB: There is a definite bias in the media polls against West Coast basketball and a large part of it has to do with the media coverage of games. Teams on the West Coast continually play a strong brand of basketball, but rarely get the spotlight – the early evening slot on ESPN – they need because they play three hours after many East Coast schools play.

It also doesn’t help that many of the nation’s big media markets lie on the East Coast. For the most part, the West Coast has two major media hubs in Los Angeles and Phoenix (Hoopville); whereas the East Coast has a slew of markets up and down the seaboard.

James Burns and Nicholas Lozito are a Hoopville Staff writers living in Sacramento.

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