By Keith Antigiovanni
It seems as if every year the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels final regular season game decides the ACC regular season title and If it seems that way to you then the reason is because it is true. Over the years the Duke/UNC rivalry has eclipsed the Mayberry/Mount Pilot rivalry as the biggest in the state of North Carolina.
Since Coach K arrived in Durham, NC way back in 1980 the two programs have combined to win 26 of the past 31 regular season titles (UNC 14, Duke 12) and 22 of the past 31 ACC Tournament titles (Duke 13, UNC 9).
The success of both teams goes back even before Coach K but the rivalry and success of both teams is not only continuing but getting even stronger which is not good news to their fellow ACC rivals. Since the 2000-2001 season alone UNC and Duke have combined for 9 of the 12 regular season titles and all but one ACC Tournament title.
What can the other teams like North Carolina State, Maryland, Florida State, Miami, etc do about this? Obviously they need to win but there is no doubt that playing with these two college basketball behemoths can help their overall RPI ranking every year before the NCAA Tournament begins.
Maybe they can take a lesson from both Duke and UNC and points in their own histories'. Prior to Coach K (pre 1980) Duke was not the great program it is now while at that same time UNC Coach Dean Smith was dominating the ACC in the 1960's and 1970's. Coach K's hiring not only put Duke on par with UNC but became the dominant team in the conference after Smith stepped down in the late 1990's.
In Smith's absence Duke won the regular season titles between 1999 and 2003 and the ACC Tournament five straight years until former Kansas Jayhawks' Coach Roy Williams was lured from the midwest to restore the Tar Heels to their former greatness. Williams noy only brought UNC two NCAA titles but it helped bring back the rivalry with Duke that was missing in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
Today, the rivalry is better than ever as the two teams face each other in their 234rd meeting tomorrow night at Cameron Indoor Arena.