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A Brief History of the Duke, UNC Basketball Rivalry

Packers vs. Bears. Celtics vs. Lakers. Red Sox vs. Yankees. What do these three matchups have in common? They are some of the greatest, most fierce rivalries in their respective sports. One rivalry that may have all of them beat is the Duke-North Carolina college basketball rivalry.

The first meeting between the two schools came way back in 1920. Since then, there have been many classic college basketball moments. Things like Austin Rivers’ game-winner, Danny Green’s posterizing dunk and the story of Fred Lind are all moments that college basketball fans will remember. The rivalry got ignited up a notch, when North Carolina signed the legendary Roy Williams to coach the team. His relationship with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was one of intrigue as the two are responsible for eight titles since 1991.

Duke North Carolina Rivalry
Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke-UNC is the Best Rivalry in Sports

With stars such as Michael Jordan, Zion Williamson, Tyler Hansbrough, Christian Laettner and Harrison Barnes involved, this has not become one of the fiercest rivalries, but also one of the most entertaining. In fact, it is so entertaining that the average price for a ticket in 2019 was over $4,000. The average cost for a Super Bowl ticket in 2022 is around that $4,000 mark.

Something that makes this rivalry feel so special though, is the proximity of the two schools. Being 10 miles apart in central North Carolina, this matchup is like playing a hated neighbor in basketball. The different funding structures revolving around the school also add to the flare. Duke is a private school, while North Carolina is public. The one factor that always plays into this rivalry is the programs themselves. It is very rare to find a year where at least one of these teams is not projected to win the national title. In years that both are projected to win the title, we often see three matchups between the schools. Two in the regular season and one in the conference tournament.

North Carolina Slightly Leads Duke in All-Time Stats

With any great rivalry, you would expect there to be a relatively close record and score. The Tar Heels currently sit at third on the all-time rankings for most wins, while the Blue Devils are fourth. North Carolina has six championships, while Duke has five. The Tar Heels have 20 Final Four appearances, while the Blue Devils have 16. The longest win-streak by either team came all the back from 1921-28, when North Carolina won 16 in a row. Since Williams got to Chapel Hill, Duke owns the record, 49-46. North Carolina leads the series record with a 141-114 record.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, these two meet up once again on Saturday, Feb. 5. How will Paolo Banchero etch his name into the history of this rivalry? What does Hubert Davis do in his first rivalry matchup as a head coach? And who will be the unheralded star of this game, joining the likes of Fred Lind, Matt Jones and Theo Pinson? With the 256th matchup between the two schools here, college basketball fans all over the globe will have their eyes on this one.


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