Best All Time College Basketball Rivalry

There’s little doubt that the North Carolina vs Duke Rivalry is the best all time college basketball rivalry. Both teams are in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) which is probably the top college basketball conference historically. And Duke and UNC are the top two teams in the conference – by a lot.

The two teams have played each other since 1920 (long before the ACC was formed). Amazingly they are located less than 10 miles apart from each other. Both the schools had joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1958 and they share 79% of the conference regular season titles between them. 58% of tournament championships are shared between these two teams. So, obviously, the Duke vs UNC basketball games often determine who wins the ACC basketball title each year. Of course the coaches of the two teams have traditionally been some of the best in the history of the game (Dean Smith and now Roy Williams at North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke).

The two teams recruit the best players nationally and often send them off to the NBA when they graduate. Among others -- Michael Jordan, Phil Ford, Sam Perkins, James Worthy played at UNC; Grant Hill, JJ Redick, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner for Duke. It’s just a fierce, great rivalry.

Grant Hill, American basketball player for the Phoenix Suns.
Grant Hill, American basketball player for the Phoenix Suns. Thanks to Keith Allison on for the picture.

But to really understand the rivalry, you have to understand how and why the fans feel so strongly about it. To many UNC Tarheel fans it is a rivalry between locals (UNC students/fans) and outsiders (Duke students/fans), elitists (Duke) against the populists (UNC) and even good against evil (I won’t list which is which; it depends on which team you support obviously). Such views really jack up the intensity of the rivalry.

Duke and North Carolina play each other twice in the regular season (once at each home court) and quite often they meet again in the ACC tournament. Those games are normally some of the highest rated TV games in the college basketball season. The games are always sellouts.

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils men's basketball.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils men's basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium, March 2006. Thanks to wikipedia for the picture.

Despite the intense rivalry, the players and coaches always ensure good sportsmanship on the court and determines that the spirit of game is not violated by any team. You might think of it as a basketball civil war but surely the Duke – UNC rivalry transcends sports. The rivalry defines the Raleigh-Durham (maybe even North Carolina) aea. The impact of the game on the city and state is similar to the impact of the Alabama - Auburn rivarly on the people and culture of the entire state of Alabama.

What do you think?

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