Tuesday, February 07, 2006

College Basketball Armegeddon 2006: Part I

or as it is commonly known: North Carolina vs. Duke.

Best. Rivalry. Ever.

Tonight at 9 PM, Duke takes the little trek down 15-501 to Chapel Hill to renew what is widely held as the best and most intense rivalry in all of sports. Sure Yankees-Red Sox is intense and Ohio State-Michigan is big time college football but Duke-North Carolina in college basketball trumps them all. Consider these facts:

-Over the last 20 years Duke and North Carolina have won 5 National Championships(Duke-3, -UNC-2) Only Connecitcut and Kentucky have one multiple titles in that stretch with 2 apiece.

-Since 1986 only four Final Fours have taken place without Duke or North Carolina in attendance(1987,1996,2002,2003). Duke has been to the Final Four 10 times and UNC has been 7 times(they were both at the 1991 Final Four but did not play each other) in that span.

-Both teams are perennial top 25 programs.

-The school are only eight miles apart. Eight. Miles. Apart.

This is tatmount to having two nuclear superpowers sharing the same border with a vitrolic hatred for one another. They are also members of the same conference, the ACC, which means they play at least twice each year, sometimes three if they meet in the ACC Tournament, but so far they have never played in the NCAA Tournament(although they came close in 1991 and 1998).

Some of my favorite games include UNC's 75-73 comeback win last March. The 1995 classic in Durham with UNC winning 102-100 in 2OT following a 30 foot game tying shot by Duke's Jeff Capel to force overtime and a sick Jerry Stackhouse dunk on Duke's Cherokee Parks. The 1991 ACC Championship game was fun with UNC blowing Duke out a week after Duke had beaten UNC in Chapel Hill. I also have fond memories of two games in 1989. The ACC Championship game which UNC won 77-74 was the first time since 1982 the Heels had won the ACC Championship. The end of that game included a three-quarters court heave from Danny Ferry that bounced off the rim and would have tied the game. The first meeting in 1989 was paritcularly memorable because UNC came to Durham ranked #13 to Duke's #1. Starting senior point guard Jeff Lebo was injured and sophomore King Rice had to pick up the reins. UNC blew Duke out(I am unsure of the score) in one of the more exciting games in the series. Of course one game which my father always talked about but occurred before I was born was in 1974 when UNC trailed Duke by 8 points with 17 seconds left. Benefitting from some turnovers and missed Duke free throws, UNC guard Walter Davis tied the game at the buzzer with a 30 foot jumper(no three point line at this point) UNC went on for the win in OT.

It does not seem to matter what the records are or who the players are, this game is intense. Having watched UNC basketball for over 25 years I can tell you that Duke-UNC feels exactly the same as watching UNC in a NCAA Tournament game and almost reaches the same level as a National Championship game. If these two would ever end up in the NCAA Final together, I am not sure I would make it through.


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