The rivalry between Duke and UNC’s men’s basketball teams never needs an emotional boost.
However, Wednesday’s contest at Cameron Indoor Stadium between the No. 4 Blue Devils and No. 15 Carolina is shadowed by the loss of legendary Tar Heel coach Dean Smith, who passed Feb. 7.
“We have lost a man who cannot be replaced,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who wore a Carolina blue tie to Smith’s funeral. “He was one of a kind and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds, and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues. However, his greatest gift was his unique ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself.”
Duke and Carolina, mostly behind the efforts of Smith and Krzyzewski, have brought nine national championships to Tobacco Road, and having two legendary coaches just 10 miles apart from each other made for many epic contests over the years.
It has been an emotional season for Coach K, who celebrated his 1,000 victory at the end of January and is the winningest coach in Division 1 men’s basketball, a title held by Smith when he retired in 1997. Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils (22-3) suffered a letdown after the win that brought him all those zeroes but the team seems to have corrected itself in time for the game with UNC (18-7), which airs at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday on ESPN.
But, like every great rivalry, the cliche that you can throw out the records is true. Wednesday’s contest just misses the 20th anniversary of one of their greatest battles, a game that was forced into overtime by a 35-foot miracle shot by Jeff Capel. Unranked Duke was 0-7 in the ACC before that game and without Coach K, who was sidelined by a back injury. UNC was No. 2 and Coach Smith’s Tar Heels should have blown out the Blue Devils but, of course, that almost never happens—even when it should.
With that knowledge, here are the 9 Things You Didn’t Know About the UNC-Duke Basketball Rivalry.
1. Duke’s Mark Alarie made the first basket in the Dean Dome on on Jan. 18, 1986, but the Tar Heels won a close game in their new home, 95-92.
2. The most watched college basketball game in ESPN history was the Carolina-Duke matchup on March 4, 2006. The Blue Devils were No. 1 entering the game but the No. 13 Tar Heels triumphed, 83-76.
3. Former U.S. Representative Brad Miller said in 2012: “I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban, then I’d have to pull for the Taliban.”
4. While UNC leads the all-time series 133-105, Duke has taken seven of the past 10. The series is even over the past 20 matchups.
5. Carolina won the first meeting between the two squads, 36-25, on Jan. 24, 1920.
6. Mike Gminski is Duke’s all-time leading scorer against the Tar Heels, averaging 18.5 points per game over 13 contests.
7. The teams have only met in the postseason once, with the Tar Heels beating Duke 73-67 in the 1971 NIT.
8. Coach Smith was 24-14 against Coach K.
9. Coach K is 26-14 against UNC since Coach Smith retired.