Wednesday, February 7th will mark the 222nd meeting between the Tar Heels of North Carolina and the Duke University Blue Devils. These two schools nine miles apart rank number two (UNC-2,003) and four (Duke-1,816) on the all-time victories list for NCAA Division I Men’s basketball. For the 122nd consecutive meeting at least one of these schools has ranked in the AP’s top twenty-five. Currently, UNC sits at number three, and the Blue Devils hold the number sixteen spot. This meeting will be the sixty-first time that both teams have earned a Top 25 spot.
These two schools have combined for seven national chan’ships, and one of them has appeared in the final four eighteen of the last twenty-five years. Duke (thirteen) and UNC (twelve) rank second and third with the number of alums playing in the NBA.
One game that stands out for me in this series happened in 1979. Facing a Blue Devil team that did not graduate any starters from its 1978 National Finalist squad (Jim Spanarkel, Mike Gminski, Gene Banks, Kenny Dennard, and Johnny Harrell), Dean Smith employed his famous four-corner offense. The result: a 7-0 halftime score and 47-40 final both in favor of Duke. Soon after the NCAA decided to use the shot clock.
A few years ago I had several of my former players in class. They loved to run a line of smack about the Tar Heel/ Blue Devil rivalry, and how UNC held the advantage in the number of former players in the NBA. On this day, the first meeting of the season, their gibes reached a fever pitch. Many wanted to know my prediction for the game that night. My response: “Class, your homework for tonight is this simple- a Duke victory equals a 100% homework grade.” A hush came over the group as I watched their minds work. Suddenly, a student called out: “I don’t know much about sports, and I have no idea what you are talking about, but I am cheering for Duke.” The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels three times that year. Needless to say the student grades improved a little during the third marking period.
Now let’s hear from you. What is your favorite rivalry in all of sports?