Since the inception of the North Carolina and Duke rivalry, blue-blooded hatred has run through not only the state of North Carolina but through America. Although the Tar Heels dominated the matchup in the early years, Duke and Coach K have made the two games each year very competitive since the early ’60s. Tonight, the two bitter rivals go head-to-head for the first time this season.
UNC leads the all-time match-up 133-105, but most of its wins came before the 1960s. The two schools first met on January 24, 1920, with UNC winning a shoot-out, 36-25.
There are many in-state rivalries across the country with deep-rooted hate, but what makes the Tobacco Road rivalry so special is Tobacco Road itself. The schools both sit on Tobacco Road (US Highway 15-501) roughly 10 miles apart. Just to show the competitiveness of the schools and the dominance that they have had over the college basketball landscape, here are a few statistics:
- 78% of the time, since the ACC was founded, the regular season champion has been either UNC or Duke.
- 59% of the time the ACC tournament champion has been either UNC or Duke.
- On the list of all-time winning programs, UNC is No. 3 and Duke is No. 4.
- In the last 139 meetings between the two schools, at least one has been ranked in the AP Top 20 or 25.
- 1955 was the last time neither UNC nor Duke was ranked in any poll.
- The two teams have met 71 times when both are ranked in the Top 25.
- UNC has been the ACC regular season champ 29 times while Duke has reigned 19 times.
- Duke has been the ACC tournament champ 19 times while UNC has won 17 times.
- UNC has been to the Final Four a record 18 times and Duke has been 15 times (3rd all-time).
- UNC has won the National Championship 5 times (3rd all-time) and Duke has won 4 times (5th all-time).
- The last game of the regular season between the two schools has been nationally televised for the past 30 years.
- The March 4, 2006, game at Cameron Indoor is the most watched college basketball game in ESPN history.
- The two schools have never met in the NCAA Tournament.
This year nothing will be different. The 95-year war continues. Duke comes in to the game ranked No. 4 nationally and on a roll since losing three ACC games in the month of January. UNC comes in ranked No. 15 and on a bit of a slide since being upset by Pittsburgh last week.
But … none of that will matter when these schools take the court tonight at Cameron Indoor. The atmosphere will be “electric, baby,” with apologies to Dick Vitale. In a game like this, it is impossible to predict the winner as too many crazy things have happened in the past. The Cameron Crazies will be rocking and emotions will be at a boiling point. The winner will be the team that can harness those emotions and remain calm in an environment unlike any other.
This is the greatest rivalry in sports. Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the emotion and enjoy the competitiveness.