The Best Rivalry in Sports

Is there a better rivalry than Duke and North Carolina? Not to me.

I have been pumped for this match-up all week – reflecting on the triple Austin Rivers buried in Chapel Hill to crush the Tar Heels earlier this season.

I figure a little play-by-play and analysis along with random side commentary are in order for such a big match-up.

What has me so pumped up? Well, every time the players get to half-court I feel like I can yell “Shoot it.”


First attempt. Nothing but net. That’s why. “Shoot it!”

Zeller opens the scoring for North Carolina and his inside prowess could really dominate tonight. Miles Plumblee answers with a beautiful up and under. More Miles! What touch for the senior. North Carolina 8, Duke 4 at the first break.

Those in Carolina blue probably hate it, but I love having Dickie V. doing this game. His passion for this match-up is unparalleled. Having Jay Bilas, a Duke grad, sitting next to him probably furthers the Chapel Hill faithful scorn for ESPN’s selection of announcing. Neither gets overtly pro-Duke in the early going.

Peyton Manning in the crowd – a spy got a look at Manning throwing on Wade Stadium’s field earlier today. Hard to tell what kind of velocity he has. Apparently he is a friend of Duke coach David Cutcliffe who was his QB coach at Tennessee. (Pulled it up again on after the game and found out that Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Brandon Stokley joined Peyton for a little pitch and catch.)

14-5 Tar Heels 4 minutes in. Coach K has to look forward to that TV timeout that comes at the next stoppage.

Harrison Barnes looks smooth. The elevation on his jumper is HIGH. It brings to mind the way Kevin Durant elevates before releasing his J.

Coach K needs a timeout if they don’t stop UNC here. And the goaltending finally gets a timeout with the score 18-5 over 5 minutes into the game.

James Michael McAdoo, with the name of a serial killer (really, what serial killer doesn’t have 3 names? Why does every guy’s middle name get thrown into the mix once it is time to label him a serial killer? Is this a rule? Is this a media phenomenom? Where did it all begin? I’m curious. Not curious enough to stop watching the game to research tonight.), kills the ball on a follow-slam to break the 2+ minute scoring drought for both teams.

Three offensive fouls in three plays. Don’t see that often. 22-5 almost 9 minutes into the game. Wow. Finally, Curry breaks the drought for Duke and buries a 3.

What a long five minutes. 37-19 UNC now after Reggie Bullock hits a 3.

2:17 left in the first half and UNC leads 40-20. This is the UNC that was picked #1 in the country before the season started.

Another big follow-slam, this time from Hairston to put UNC up 44-20.

48-24 at the half. You have to ask yourself how Duke is a 26-4 team right now. Coach K passes off the Erin Andrews interview to Associate Head Coach Chris Collins.

My boy Murph and I were sending bbms before the game and I commented how I loved that Coach K pawned off the pre-game interview to Collins. I suggested he probably said, “Collins, go talk to Andrews.” Murph thought it might be, “I speak when we clinch.” Either way, Coach K commented earlier in the year that he feels he has 3 head coaches-to-be on his bench with Collins, Steve Wojciechowski and Jeff Capel (all 3 former point guards for Coach K). If he does, I’ll be curious to see how they succeed. In the same piece of SI reading material, Coach K was asked how many years were left on his contract. His response – “As many as I want.” And why not? This is the guy who can get through to Kobe Bryant and make him and other NBA stars respect practicing for the Olympics.

Further sidebar – who are two of the best US Olympic basketball coaches? The first two that come to mind for me are Bob Knight and his protege, Coach K. Knight coached Michael Jordan and the “amateur” college players in 1984. Coach K picked up the team when it had fallen into an embarassing state and got the stars to come back to represent the US when the rest of the world caught up.

The Coach K coaching tree does not seem to be spreading success. Tommy Amaker has bounced around quite a bit and just now will be getting Harvard into the tourney (they lead Cornell in a game that will clinch their bid if they hold on to win and Penn loses). Johnny Dawkins is still getting his feet wet at Stanford but he does not have that team back to where it was under the hey-day with Mike Montgomery coaching. Quin Snyder had a modicum of success at Missouri but has fallen off the “high-riser” coaching circuit since. Who else is out there?

Between getting crushed on the boards and shooting 27%, there’s plenty of evidence to support the wide margin that currently exists.

Not how Duke wanted to come out to start the 2nd half – with Zeller easing into a soft bank shot from the left side – 50-24. Duke’s largest deficit of the year.

Love Roy Williams’ paisley Carolina blue tie. Classy Coach.

That’s a ridiculous offensive foul on Harrison Barnes. Duke on a 7-0 run the last 2 minutes and gets the benefit of the officials favoring any contact being the fault of the offensive player today (Dick Vitale was not a fan of this in the first half, and I’ll agree with him).

Thornton hears his classmates count down to 1 on the shot clock and a long 3 makes it a 10-0 run, which finally comes to an end with Zeller banking in another deuce.

Going into the 4th quarter of the game (10 minutes to go), UNC still leads by 21 (71-50). Duke has played an extremely solid 2nd half and they cannot get the lead below 17.

Austin Rivers has a solid overall game (not tonight necessarily, but game as in what he brings to the table when he sets foot on the court). He just attacked the basket from the baseline and creatively finished in traffic.

Curry, who has been pretty quiet tonight, hits a 3 to extend Duke’s run to 12-3 and gets the lead down to 14 (71-57). 7 and a half to play. Timeout at Cameron.

Love watching Miles Plumblee attack the glass. He has 14 points on his senior night.

Rivers on the stripe with the clock stopped. Missed free throw on the front end of the 1 and 1 stops Duke’s chance to take the lead to less than 10 – 75-64 with 4 to play.

3:43 to play. Duke needs quite a run to get erase a 13 point deficit from this point.

86-69 with 55.9 seconds left. Ballgame.

Miles Plumblee fouls out with 16 points and 11 rebounds. You left it all on the floor tonight Miles. Congrats on wrapping up your career with a very solid performance.

Gave over. 88-70. UNC takes the ACC regular season championship.

Not quite the type of excitement you would want from this match-up. The ACC Championship was on the line. The #1 seed in the ACC Tourney was on the line. A potential overall #1 seed in the NCAA tourney was in play – and it was a blowout. Coming into the game 1 point separated the entirety of this match-up dating back to 1979. I guess that’s now 19. Oh well, it is always worth watching.