When Duke Basketball visits the Tar Heels on Saturday, they will play the next installment of NCAA basketball’s best rivalry. While their respective seasons couldn’t be more different, the records and rankings get thrown out the window because history has proven that even when one is down, they’re never really out.
There are some great rivalries in college basketball. If you were to go to Kentucky or Indiana or Michigan or Philly, you might hear some compelling cases for why the best rivalry games take place in those areas. In the hearts and minds of those fans, they wouldn’t be wrong.
But there is only one rivalry where each side has won at least five national championships with five coming in the last fifteen years. There is only one where the schools are eight miles apart and wear different shades of blue, but whose blood is of the same color.
When the calendar turns to February, this marks the time when Duke and North Carolina come together to renew their highly competitive series. Over the past hundred games, each team has won 50 games and quite amazingly, each has scored the exact same number of points during that span.
While recent matchups have determined one seeds and set up championship runs, this year’s game features teams heading in opposite directions. UNC lost another tough game on the road to the Seminoles on Monday and have lost two in a row and 7 of their last 9. Duke struggled, but survived against BC and now faces the Heels having won four in a row.
They have been up and down in those games despite the victories and will play a North Carolina team with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Some say they can still make the NCAA Tournament with a winning run to close the season. A win against Duke is a must to keep those faint hopes alive.
Even if the NIT is in their future, the Tar Heels would love nothing more than to beat Duke and bring a little happiness into their dismal year. Duke needs a win to keep pace with the ACC leaders and keep bragging rights over their closest neighbor.