With North Carolina having a down year and Duke once again in the top five, people will say that the rivalry is dead. However, a rivalry of this magnitude always has a pulse. Even more so sometimes when one team isn’t as competitive and their fanbase wants a win. That made the Chapel Hill crowd palpable on a February night.
Regardless of the records and numbers, rivalries like this still have the personalities that make it run. Coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski are legends on their respective campuses and for good reason. Both are going to have their teams ready to go night in and night out.
Thursday night was no different. The Tar Heels came in at 18-7 and a projected No. 8 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, which is hardly what they’re used to. Standing at No. 5 in the nation, the Blue Devils came into the game at 21-5 with their eyes set on a No. 1 seed in the tournament. With this backdrop, it was clear that both teams had something to gain and something to lose going into the game tonight.
Playing on the road, Duke came out quickly with Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker combining for 21 points, but North Carolina matched them almost every step of the way. Ultimately, the Tar Heels’ seven misses on 14 free throw attempts ended up being the difference in the first half as Duke went into the locker room with a 37-30 lead on the road.
However, in true rivalry fashion, North Carolina stormed back and upended the visiting Blue Devils 74-66 to give them another quality win headed into March. This win showed that even when one team is “better” than the other it’s anybody’s ball game, and that is the essence of a great rivalry.
Ultimately, these two teams will be competing in March. If they play each other in the ACC tournament, expect things to get ramped up even more. Should that happen, nobody will question the strength and life of this rivalry. Don’t even mention if these two teams were to play in the NCAA tournament.
When it comes down to it, Duke and North Carolina are always going to have some of the top recruits and players in the country so they will always be exciting to watch. The excitement gets that much better when the two teams play each other. For those who say that the rivalry is dead, they haven’t been following these teams as they head towards March.
Check the pulse of college basketball fans in the state of North Carolina. After that and watching the game tonight, everyone should be convinced that this rivalry is as alive as ever.