Big Ten men’s basketball only has a few protected rivalries, ensuring those showdowns be played twice each season, but that doesn’t mean it’s free from animosity. The Big Ten has been one of the best men’s basketball conferences in the country for several years now, and it has led to some of the top teams in the nation squaring off in high-stakes contests. Those are sure to get the blood boiling.
So, let’s take a look at the best Big Ten basketball rivalries right now. This means we’re calling out the rivalries that are hottest at the moment. They might not be as historically great as others, but in modern times, they’ve been the headliners in the conference.
Without further ado, these are the best rivalries in Big Ten basketball right now, in no particular order. Note: this is only considering rivalries between two Big Ten teams, so no out-of-conference rivalries included.
Best Big Ten Basketball Rivalries Right Now
This is one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. It should go without saying that it’s one of the best Big Ten basketball rivalries, right now and probably forever.
Basketball is a religion in Indiana, and large portions of the state are diehards for the Hoosiers or Boilermakers. Indiana has the banners, Purdue has the series lead, and both programs have an insane passion for hoops and a massive loathing for their in-state foe.
Yes, this rivalry is primarily on the gridiron, but it extends to everything else as well. People in Columbus and Ann Arbor are not fond of their counterparts, and that incudes basketball.
It’s not as heated as when the annual football date rolls around, and both programs also aren’t as historically successful in basketball as they are in football. But lately, both of these programs have been near the top of the Big Ten in men’s basketball, and that has turned up the heat on this rivalry whenever it’s played.
Only a handful of Big Ten schools are truly basketball schools, and these are two of them.
Indiana and Illinois are two historic basketball programs, and you can feel it whenever they share a court. Separated by less than a three-hour drive, these teams do not like each other and have played some very close contests as of late.
In their last meeting in February, Illinois pulled away in overtime, 75-71, and in March 2020, the Illini escaped with a 67-66 victory over the Hoosiers. In fact, six of the last seven meetings between these two have been decided by 10 points or fewer, and the series during that seven-game span is narrowly in the Illini’s favor, 4-3.
The games have been close, Illinois has been on the rise as a program, and Indiana is hoping its new era under Mike Woodson will return it back to national relevance. Not only is this a fun rivalry now, it has the potential to become something much more soon.
This is the other no-brainer that couldn’t not be included. Michigan and Michigan State are rivals in everything, and while the football game between these two is huge every year, the basketball games don’t miss a beat, either.
Lately, the Wolverines have been competing near the top of the conference, which has breathed new life back into this rivalry. But most recently, the Spartans had the last laugh, upsetting the No. 2 ranked Wolverines, 70-64, in East Lansing last season on March 7, a big win that helped MSU get into the NCAA Tournament.
Every time Michigan and Michigan State play, the animosity is palpable. This is one of the best Big Ten basketball rivalries and one of the best college basketball rivalries in general. I recommend any hoops fan tune in when they play next, whether you have interest in the Big Ten or not.
Frankly, Big Ten basketball is not loaded with historic rivalries that stand the test of time. There are a few like that, and the rest are long-standing series that get more or less heated depending on the teams’ strengths and how the games go.
Enter Purdue-Ohio State.
All three of the last three meetings between these two were decided by single digits, including an overtime contest in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals that went Ohio State’s way and a two-point Purdue victory in Columbus on Jan. 19, 67-65. The Buckeyes and Boilermakers have been two of the better programs in the league lately and look to be moving into the future, too. They’re not especially far away from one another, especially when considering how wide Big Ten territory spreads, and they have decades and decades of experience against one another.
This one is less of a rivalry and more of a currently-heated series, but that’s enough for it to be one of the best Big Ten basketball rivalries right now.