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Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Roundtable: Recruiting rivalries to watch

By RecruitingNation

Duke vs. North Carolina. Kentucky vs. Louisville. Connecticut vs. Syracuse.

Some of the greatest rivalries in sports play out on the college basketball court, but this season marks a changing of the guard in many of those rivalries as conference realignment has done away with annual matchups like UConn vs. Syracuse while carving out the potential for new ones.

Rivalries also exist in recruiting, and while they’re often an extension of natural rivalries on the court, that isn’t always the case.

Jim Calhoun and John Calipari had a huge recruiting rivalry when they were the head coaches at UConn and UMass, respectively -- despite the fact their teams never played -- stemming from the recruitment of Marcus Camby.

So whether it’s an extension of a conference rivalry, a personality clash between high-profile coaches or even the consequence of a particularly contentious recruitment process, recruiting rivalries can take shape in a number of ways.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable recruiting rivalries, whether historic or up-and-coming based on the implications of realignment, as chosen by our RecruitingNation experts:

Paul Biancardi: Kentucky vs. Louisville
Ever since Calipari moved to Lexington, it has elevated the natural rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville on the court. Now that the teams have combined to win the past two national championships, the rivalry has extended into recruiting circles. ESPN 100 No. 7 Trey Lyles will be making his college decision soon, and it will come down to these bluegrass, blue-blood schools. Lyles, a one-time Indiana commit, now will make one fan base extremely happy and will have to play against the other in the future. The Wildcats and Cardinals meet each season right around New Year's Day, for bragging rights. And, of course, this won't be the last time these national powers compete for a recruit.

Adam Finkelstein: Kentucky vs. Kansas
It was barely six months ago that Calipari the recruiter was virtually invincible. Then came the upset that was Andrew Wiggins’ decision, which reportedly even caught Bill Self by surprise. Wiggins was the punctuation mark that would have given Kentucky arguably the best recruiting class of all time, but instead his commitment gave Self the biggest recruiting win of his career. That boost of momentum has carried over into the 2014 class, where Kansas has landed No. 10 recruit Kelly Oubre and remains a viable option for the likes of top-five prospects Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander. Kentucky, meanwhile, has lost out on all four. With a head-to-head battle for No. 2 Myles Turner potentially on the horizon, these are two programs that appear poised to continue clashing for top national prospects for the foreseeable future.

Joel Francisco: UCLA vs. USC
The UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans appear to be headed for some epic recruiting battles in the near future and beyond. Each school is trying to resurrect its program to lure an impressive group of up-and-coming prospects in Southern California. New USC coach Andy Enfield didn't waste any time monitoring the recruiting landscape of possible coaching candidates in the region as he snagged the well-respected Tony Bland from Steve Fisher's staff at San Diego State as well as Pepperdine assistant Jason Hart, who has Los Angeles ties and an NBA pedigree. On the other hand, new UCLA coach Steve Alford went with sort of a hodgepodge strategy by filling his staff with a touch of familiarity in Duane Broussard and Ed Schilling, as well as a coach with connections to the L.A.-area basketball scene in Oregon State assistant David Grace. However, if the early returns of recruiting are a sign of things to come, the Trojans appear to be sitting on comfortable ground as they have put together a well-rounded class led by ESPN 100 UCLA target Jordan McLaughlin. On the other hand, the Bruins are struggling as they have lost out on a number of prospects early on in the process, including recent decommit Trevon Bluiett.

Reggie Rankin: Syracuse vs. the ACC
Syracuse has a great recruiting presence in upstate New York, New York City and New England, and I expect that trend to continue. But with the Orange joining the ACC, I now also expect them to extend their recruiting further south to challenge Duke, North Carolina and NC State for talent not only in the DMV area (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) but even within the state of North Carolina and being able to compete with anyone nationally. Syracuse has great tradition and an established and secure NCAA championship coach in Jim Boeheim, so the Orange can compete with the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams for high-level prospects because they can sell just as good of a basketball product. No disrespect to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, who have great coaches and are terrific programs, but I expect the Orange to have the longer recruiting reach. The Orange will come into the ACC and be at or near the top of the conference year in and year out based on the talent they have brought into the program for years under Boeheim. I predict that in the near future there will be many highly ranked prospects who have the Orange, Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Wolfpack on their short lists.

John Stovall: Michigan vs. Michigan State
The rise of Michigan's program has led to a reigniting of the Michigan-Michigan State recruiting rivalry. The fact the state of Michigan does not seem to produce as many high-major players as in years past is not helping the situation. Michigan currently has three players from the state on its 11-man roster and Michigan State has four on its 12-man roster, and neither team has a player from the state in its 2014 recruiting class. Both programs would love to build a fence around the state and not let any elite talent leave. All those factors combine to mean that any high-major prospect from Michigan will be even more highly coveted by the state's two premier programs.