Duke-UNC: The Best Rivalry In College Basketball

Duke-UNC is not just the best rivalry in college basketball. It is arguably the best rivalry in all of college and professional sports. Just 10 miles apart down Tobacco road, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels prove time and time again why it is truly one of the greatest sports traditions of all time. For a sports fan, attending a Duke-UNC rivalry game must be at the top of their bucket list.

Saturday marked the 244th meeting between The Duke Blue Devils and The North Carolina Tar Heels, with UNC leading the overall series 135-109. These two historic college basketball franchises are top-five in all-time wins in college basketball history with UNC at three and Duke at four.

This past Saturday’s matchup was the final ACC regular season game for both teams as usual. The fifth-ranked Tar Heels defeated the 17th-ranked Blue Devils 90-83 in another hard fought classic.

Duke-UNC Basketball

Luke Kennard and Justin Jackson fight for a loose ball during their first matchup on Feb, 9th (Photo Courtesy of The Fayetteville Observer)

It was an important game for both teams in terms of seeding for the ACC and the NCAA tournament. What makes Duke-UNC so special is that none of that matters.

Duke-UNC isn’t about records, seeding or win-loss records coming into the game. It’s about pride. The thing about Duke-UNC is that one team could be undefeated coming into the matchup and the other team could have lost every single game up to that point. For that one game, it will be played like it is the last basketball game to ever be played.

Blood, sweat and tears is the definition of Duke-UNC. Blood, sweat and tears are usually evident in every single game, or at least one of those.

Neither team has actually met in the NCAA tournament before. Every game they have ever played, with the exception of some ACC tournament games and an NIT game back in the 70s, has been in the regular season. Regular season games are important, but the postseason has historically brought out a different level in athletes. A level in which you see in every Duke-UNC game.

It shows why this rivalry is so special. The postseason atmosphere of win or go home is in every Duke-UNC matchup, even though it isn’t a win or go home game. All that matters in the two games they play each year is winning and nothing else.

The rivalry has produced powerful moments like when Gerald Henderson punched Tyler Hansbrough in the face resulting in a bloody nose and a plethora of heated exchanges. Jeff Capel hit a half court shot to send the game into overtime. Jerry Stackhouse’s had a reverse slam in Cameron Indoor Stadium that silenced the previously rowdy crowd. Austin Rivers hit a game-winning shot over Tyler Zeller to cap a comeback in Chapel Hill.

Whether you like basketball or not, people tune in to watch Duke-UNC. On March 8, 2008, Duke played UNC in Durham, which would go on to be the most viewed college basketball game in history. An estimated 5.5 million watched the game. Even those who don’t prefer sports can appreciate the magnitude of Duke-UNC.

The series has involved some of the greatest basketball icons of all time, including the great Michael Jordan. The likes of Vince Carter, Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Antawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace and many more have gone on to have successful careers in college and professionally.

Either way the tide turns, Duke or UNC, it’s unlike anything else in college or professional sports.

 

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