Top College Basketball Metropolitan Areas

October 4th, 2006
While there are certainly many great college towns in this country, some of our largest cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas boast multiple programs that have produced historic rivalries and unforgettable moments that make them great locales for college basketball enthusiasts.  While fans know that places like Lexington, Ky; Lawrence, Ks; and Storrs, Ct are home to big time college basketball programs, here is a list of cities where professional sports are not the only topic discussed on the sports radio airwaves. 



1- Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The area of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill receives its number one ranking almost strictly because of two teams: Duke and UNC.  The bad blood between these two schools has solidified itself as one of the best rivalries in all of sports, and for good reason.  Both schools are perennial national championship contenders and have produced 16 National Player of the Year honors, appeared in 20 Final Fours and hold seven National Championship Trophies. 


While being in the top 10 all season is expected for both these programs, their rankings are completely irrelevant.  It’s Duke and UNC and that’s really all that matters


Success from both sides has generated a lot of verbal shots between their students and fans.  While Blue Devil undergrads will tell you that the only trace of intelligent life in Chapel Hill is a sign directing you to Duke’s campus, Tar Heel students have made a hobby of explicitly voicing their opinions on Duke’s top players and their sexual preference. 


Completing “The Triangle” is North Carolina State.  Located just east of Duke and UNC in Raleigh, NC State is a nationally recognized program and always competitive in the ACC.



2- Philadelphia

In addition to boasting four major professional sports teams, The City of Brotherly Love is also the home of one of the most unique traditions in college basketball.  The Big 5, comprised of La Salle, Saint Joseph's, Temple, Pennsylvania and Villanova are all located within a 17 mile radius of each other, and many of the games are played at the historic Palestra located on Penn’s campus.


The Big 5 was formed in 1955 and games were played as double or tripleheaders.  As schools began to join conferences conflicts with scheduling arose and it became more difficult to allow all the schools to play each other. By 1991 the format was non-existent, but eight years later the series was back, much to the delight of the fans. 


The most notable rivalry within the Big 5 is between St. Joes and Villanova.  Dubbed the Holy War for the schools religious affiliations, the game is sort of an inferior vs. superior match-up.  St. Joseph's is a smaller school and plays in the mid-major Atlantic 10, while Villanova plays in the basketball giant Big East.


Drexel is the 6th Division I program located in Philly, but is not a member of the Big 5.



3- Cincinnati

At first you may question the credibility of this mid-sized Midwestern city as a college hoops hot bed, but consider this:  In addition to being the location for the University of Cincinnati and Xavier, two schools located only a few miles from each other, the city is within 100 miles of Dayton, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami of Ohio and Ohio State.  UK plays at least one game a season in Cincy, and many grads from the nearby universities land jobs here creating fan bases.


The rivalry between XU and UC may not get enough national attention as it deserves.  While UC, a public school, has had more success in the past 20 years with 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1992-2005, the Musketeers have won seven of the last 10 meetings.  Some say that the rivalry has lost some of its luster with the firing of Bob Huggins last year, but true fans in Cincinnati know that the local media hype and hostility between the two sides will continue to exist. 



4- Washington D.C.-Baltimore

While the top three metropolitan rankings have been predicated on rivalries, the DC-Baltimore area simply boasts a good amount of quality college basketball.  Maryland is a perennial powerhouse in the ACC and won a National Championship in 2002, as well as a women’s title this past April.  The Terripans student section is notorious for being ruthless and vulgar towards their opponents.


Georgetown, one of the more successful teams in the 1980s and 1990s under John Thompson, has re-established themselves in the Big East under his son John Thompson III. 


George Washington enjoyed their best season last year, going undefeated in the Atlantic 10 and reached as high as 6 in the Top 25 Coaches Poll.


The area is also home to American University, Coppin St, Howard, Loyola College, Morgan St, Towson St and UMBC.  George Mason is just a few miles south of DC in Virginia and Navy is a short drive between DC and Baltimore as well.


5- Greater Los Angeles

While the Lakers garner the most basketball attention in Southern California, the second largest market in the country has arguably the most successful college basketball program. UCLA holds a record 10 National Championships, and after a string of unsuccessful seasons, Head Coach Ben Howland seems to have restored the glory to Westwood after taking the Bruins this year’s national title game.


USC, while more of a football school, is one of only 36 programs to record 1,000 or more all-time wins. 


Closest to the big two are Long Beach St. and Loyola Marymount, the school most known for its incredible run to the Elite Eight in 1990 after its star player Hank Gathers collapsed and died during a West Coast Conference Tournament game.  Also within a short commute (depending on traffic) are schools such as CS Northridge, Fullerton, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, and UC Riverside.





Bay Area - California, Saint Mary's, San Francisco, San Jose St, Santa Clara, and Stanford


Boston - Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern.  Also an abundance of Division II and III programs including Bentley, Babson, Brandeis, Emerson, Endicott, Stonehill, Tufts

New York City/Tri State Area - Columbia, Farleigh Dickinson, Fordham, Iona, LIU, Manhattan, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John’s, St. Peter's, and Wagner. Hofstra and Stony Brook are also just a short drive down the Long Island Expressway.