In the 179th NCAA Tournament game in the history of the University of North Carolina, and in the 157th NCAA Tournament game in the history Duke University, it’s finally going to happen. This weekend at the Final Four in New Orleans Duke and UNC, arguably the greatest rivalry in all of college sports, will play each other in the NCAA tournament for the first time. Seems impossible that it hasn’t happened before, but it's true.The 258th all meeting between these bluest of blue blood basketball schools will be for the right to play in the National Championship game Monday night.
It’s only the 2nd time that both schools have made it to the final four in the same tournament. Back in 1991 Duke and UNC both got there but the tar heels lost to Kansas in the semis and Kansas ended up losing in the title game to Duke, giving the Blue Devils their first ever national championship.
One of the best players on that 1991 North Carolina team was a guard by the name of Hubert Davis. He scored 25 points in that semifinal loss. Oh, did I mention he just happens to be Carolina's head coach this time around? Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.
Speaking of head coaches, this is the final ride for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski who’s retiring whenever Duke’s tourney journey comes to an end. How appropriate then that if Duke wants to get Coach K another ring, they’ll have to go thru their fiercest rival to get there. And if you’re a North Carolina fan, can you think of a better way end Krzyzewski’s career than beating him in the final four, denying him a chance at a 6th title, which would match UNCs number of championship banners? I did mention you can’t make this stuff up, right?
The overall series favors UNC 142-115, but in the 97 games they’ve played against each other with Krzyzewski on the bench for Duke, the blue devils hold a 50-47 edge. They split the two games they played this season, with UNC absolutely crashing the party at Cameron Indoor when over 100 former Duke players were in attendance to see Duke beat the Heels for the last time at their cozy little gym. UNC as it turned out had other ideas. And now we get the 3rd act of this play, with EVERYTHING on the line. These two schools, whose campuses are just 8 miles apart, leave Tobacco Road for Bourbon Street to fight it out for the first time in the NCAAs ..and for the last time with the legendary Coach K on the bench. Sign me the hell up.