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December 3, 2011
An 'underrated' rivalry
Duke and North Carolina set the standard for college basketball rivalries. The two storied programs are just miles apart, they play in the same league, they play twice a year and both games usually have plenty on the line.
Kentucky and Louisville is a great rivalry. Stemming from two spirited, if not arrogant fan bases in the heart of Jack Daniels and wooden baseball bat territory, the battles inside Freedom Hall and Rupp Arena are usually nothing short of entertaining.
There's also UCLA-USC, Syracuse-Connecticut and Illinois-Missouri, just to name a few.
Once a year, though, there's a game to be played between two schools separated by approximately 70 miles of freeway. Where does the Wisconsin-Marquette annual tilt fit in?
"I don't know nationally who gets what," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "I don't know what the people of Spokane (think). This morning, when they got up, were they (like), 'Hey, I hear Wisconsin is playing Marquette on Saturday?'
"I don't know. I just know that it's pretty good basketball. Big East against the Big Ten."
If for nothing else it's an intriguing and ultra competitive rivalry. Players from Madison (Wes Matthews, Vander Blue) play or played at Marquette. Players from Milwaukee (Marcus Landry, Boo Wade) played at Wisconsin.
Though Saturday afternoon's matchup may not hold much cache throughout the nation, it's certainly not overlooked among the people that play in it.
"The first time we played Marquette I was kind of shocked by how jacked everybody on campus got and how everybody was (excited) on the team, too," UW senior point guard Jordan Taylor said. "I think it's an underrated rivalry."
Since Ryan took over the Wisconsin basketball program Wisconsin has compiled a 6-4 record against Marquette. During that stretch the Badgers have won each game by an average of 8.5 points.
If you were to take out UW's 23-point rout of Marquette during Ryan's first year in 2001, the average margin of victory dips to 6.8 points. What makes a rivalry great, though, is when the road team claims victory.
Looking at the past four years in particular, both Marquette and UW have won at least once on the others home floor. In order to be called a rivalry that needs to happen.
"It's definitely fun to play those guys," Taylor said. "Especially all those Wisconsin guys. We know most of them and we see them around. They're just down the road.
"It's an underrated rivalry."