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Wanted: More regional rivalries like Florida-Miami

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

July 3
It was great to learn that the Miami Hurricanes will play the Florida Gators not only in football (on Sept. 7) but also in basketball this season. As a lover of all sports, I'm already making plans for the clash on the gridiron. That will be one big-time matchup. Welcome to the action, Gators coach Ron Zook -- what a way to get indoctrinated!

Perry Clark
Clark
Billy Donovan
I love the fact that Miami and Florida will hook up in basketball as part of the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 21 at American Airlines Arena. The meeting will be the 64th in the intrastate rivalry but the first since Dec. 20, 1990. It's hard to believe that it's been that long between meetings in this rivalry. Florida leads the all-time series 42-21, including a 62-60 victory in Gainesville the last time these teams met.

The coaches -- Florida's Billy Donovan and Miami's Perry Clark -- deserve credit for squaring off. These two schools have winning athletic programs and great athletic directors in Jeremy Foley (Florida) and Paul Dee (Miami). They're creating a lot of enthusiasm and spirit, especially in the pre-conference schedule.

It will be great to see Florida's Brett Nelson and Matt Bonner and Miami's Darius Rice and James Jones on the same court, battling for bragging rights in the state. It's the Big East against the SEC, baby! This game can help both schools in recruiting, too, as players might want to stay in state to be part of an intense and exciting rivalry.

I've been saying that regional rivalries in the pre-conference schedule can be something special for college basketball. Think about the excitement in the Midwest if DePaul and Illinois played each season! What about Georgetown-Maryland as an annual affair? Hey, in the Buckeye state, an Ohio State-Cincinnati showdown seems like a natural. Come on, Jim O'Brien and Bobby Huggins, let's get this done! And couldn't you see a Notre Dame-Purdue clash for excitement in Indiana?

Matchups like these can help coaches evaluate their teams heading into conference play.
These games would be great early-season matchups. Players and fans love that kind of game. The only ones who don't love them are the coaches, because it's a potential loss and a tough situation if you lose to your rival. Then you have to listen to your alumni being upset for a year until you get a shot at revenge.

But matchups like these can help coaches evaluate their teams heading into conference play. You want to be battle-tested and prepared for the pressure. It also helps when the NCAA Tournament selection committee checks out that RPI. When you want to improve your schedule strength, a game against a quality regional rival helps a lot more than a no-name cupcake.

I salute Clark and Donovan for agreeing to play. The American Airlines Arena will be rockin' and rollin', baby! I hope more schools get on the bandwagon and schedule these competitive in-state rivals.

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