Duke Versus North Carolina Means More Than Most People Can Even Imagine Part. 1

I don’t think you really have any idea.

There are rivalries and then there is Duke versus North Carolina. Tonight these two legendary programs will meet for the 232nd time. A quick tale of the tape

  • National Championships: UNC-5, Duke 4
  • Final Four Appearances: UNC- 18, Duke 15
  • Sweet Sixteen Appearances: UNC-31, Duke-26
  • Conference Tournament Titles: UNC-25, Duke-24
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: UNC-35, Duke-22

Duke and North Carolina have set a standard that, unless something dramatic changes in the next century, won’t be met by any other college basketball program in the nation. UCLA, while still the gold standard when it comes to National Championships and set the bar for these two programs, continues to have trouble finding its footing in the modern era of basketball a nine mile stretch on US15/501 continues to set the benchmark for what a basketball program should look like.

That is what makes this rivalry so intriguing. The proximity of these two teams makes for one of the most interesting dynamics in sports. I lived in Raleigh for over two years and felt the intensity of the fan base. While there is a mutual respect for what each has accomplished the “blues” don’t mix. You’re either Duke blue or Carolina blue and there is no compromising.

While in North Carolina I remember getting a sense of pride from each side about their program. Everyday on The David Glenn Show on ESPN radio affiliate in Raleigh he would discuss these two teams during basketball and recruiting season. Glenn, (a North Carolina alum in his own right) would have callers from both sides analyzing why their team was the best. “Joe from Raleigh” was a regular caller and was often fairly specific in his reasons why Duke was superior. Yet was non-existent if the game didn’t go the Blue Devil’s way.

That’s the nature of the beast in this rivalry. The names change but the results are always fantastic. Grocery stores, banks, places of work, and any place else you can think of are buzzing with excitement for this game.

Both coaches know the ramifications of this game. Win, and your team is in the drivers seat of what is the toughest conference in basketball. Lose, and you’re gonna need to take care of business between now and March in order to get yourself back in the conversation. The coaches in this rivalry make this game all the sweeter. Mike Krzyzewski (who will be referred to as “coach K” to save me the embarrassment of trying to spell that again) and Roy Williams are well equipped to handle the pressures of this game. Coach K, he of 900+ wins and counting and Williams with two National Championships since arriving in Chapel Hill both know the magnitude of this game.

And neither wants to lose to the other.

Tonight they will meet for the 233rd time in their history. Both schools are tucked in the top-10 with plenty on the line. Duke is trying to right the ship after a loss at home to Miami, while UNC is looking to maintain its momentum after finding their stride after a pasting by Florida State.

I’m not making any picks on this night because I’m expecting this to be more than a game. Because that is what I expect from something that is more than a rivalry.

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