By Jeremy Fitch
Chapel Hill and the Blue Devils have been a rivalry that is arguably the best in all of U.S. sports. Certainly when it comes to a college basketball rivalry, this one stands alone as the greatest. It all began 8 miles down Tobacco Road, January 24, 1920.
As NCAA powerhouses for years, this matchup goes much farther than just the Atlantic Coast Conference. Mike Kryzewski has said over the years, “Our games against North Carolina over the decades have proven to stand the test of greatness and time and excellence. Whatever thing you want to check, whatever you need to have it be a great rivalry, Duke and Carolina check all the boxes.” Great teams have great coaches, and we have not been disappointed over the years with the coaching prowess down Tobacco Road. The rivalry rose to new heights in the 1980’s when Mike Kryzewski and Dean Smith were on center stage. Smith, the legendary coach on his way to having the most wins in NCAA D1 and Coach K, on the rise to become one of the greats in the college basketball realm. Since then, we have had the opportunity to see Coach K take over the status of having the most wins in NCAA D1 history, which continues to rise each week in front of our very eyes. On the other side of the rivalry currently, UNC head coach, Roy Williams, has not shied away from being great since taking over Chapel Hill in 2003, winning 2 National Championships. This legendary coaching matchup’s days are numbered, but fans should soak in every last drop of this coaching rivalry that is left in the coming college seasons.
Although the coaches have been some of the best for years, the players that have arguably been some of the greatest college phenoms we have ever had the privilege of watching are what have made this rivalry what it truly is. The stars over the years have not been scared of the bright lights this rivalry has brought on. From game winning shots to blood and tears, each time these teams matchup it is an instant classic.
In North Carolina fans have had the privilege to see the likes of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, James Worthy, Marcus Paige, Jerry Stackhouse and many others. Chapel Hill is the full college experience, but add in the chance to play in the greatest rivalry, and be coached by a great is something many of the best players over the years could not turn down.
For Duke, fans have had the honor of watching, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Shane Battier, JJ Redick, Jahlil Okafor , Jay Williams and many more college legends. The Blue Devils continue to attract the best talent in the country. A big catalyst for that is that these kids want the chance to play in one of the greatest rivalry games of all time, twice a season under one of the greatest coaches in the history of the college basketball.
These players set the stage and expectation of what we could expect in the past, present and future. No one could have imagined the series would be this even though. This week marks the 240 meeting for the foes, and we expect another instant classic. History has been made, but we look forward to the opportunity to witness more history in future matchups.
It is all decided this week on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill. Look for a full preview of this Wednesday’s matchup at 9 p.m. on ESPN from me Wednesday morning!
Now the Rivalry is in OUR hands