Christian Laettner. Rasheed Wallace. Elton Brand. Jerry Stackhouse. J.J. Redick. Antawn Jamison. Michael Jordan. The notable names that have passed through Duke and North Carolina throughout the decades are many and the battles that have raged between these two schools have been epic. The greatest rivalry in all of college sports has been largely overseen by college basketball’s biggest modern heavyweight coaches: Mike Kryzyzeski, Dean Smith and Roy Williams. Tonight the rivalry is renewed as the Tar Heels come to Coach K Court looking to turn their disappointing season around while Duke hopes to further solidify its claim as the best team in the nation.
Ignore all the stats and the hoopla, the winning streaks (Duke has won five in a row), who the home team is (Duke is undefeated at Cameron), whose offense is better (North Carolina by one-tenth of a point) and who is injured (Ryan Kelly for Duke, Joel James for North Carolina). None of that matters here. These teams are going to be amped and the Cameron Crazies will bring enough energy to the game to light up the entire country. This is going to be a crazy, back-and-forth kind of game that will have you on the edge of your seat.
The Blue Devils will bring their best—Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon—against North Carolina’s best—James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston—and you can expect that these teams will want to destroy each other from the opening tip-off. Duke might be ranked second in the nation while North Carolina is unranked, but that means nothing here. Despite all the epic teams and players that have come through these programs, some of the best matchups have come when one team was seemingly the overwhelming favorite, so expect something awesome tonight.
Don’t be surprised if we have an instant classic on our hands here—you never know when the ghost of Jeff Capel might give us another buzzer beater to help raise this already epic rivalry’s standing yet another notch.