Duke vs North Carolina is one of the most fierce rivalries in all of Division 1 college sports, in my opinion, second only to the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama. This rivalry has been very prominent in college sports. The two schools are located only 10 miles apart on Tobacco Road, one of the most famous stretches of Highway in America. 4 schools, Duke, North Carolina State, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest are separated by just over 25 miles, all big Division 1 basketball programmes.
A lot of people assume the rivalry only stems from the two schools being in such close proximity, but in 1961 competitive players Art Heyman (Duke) and Larry Brown (UNC) got into a fist fight that resulted in an on-court brawl which included fans throwing punches. The fight started when UNC guard Larry Brown drove baseline behind the Blue Devils’ defence in a late game situation, Art Heyman tried to stunt the Tar Heels’ attempt at a comeback by fouling Larry Brown across the chest, feisty Brown took exception to this cheap shot and started swinging for Heyman, the two traded a few punches before the other players and fans got involved. Both players were subsequently suspended for their part in the fight. Ever since the fight each school’s fans have been hostile towards the players from the other school.
|Image per journalnow.com
The rivalry reached it’s peak in the 1980s with cable networks like ESPN starting to broadcast regular-season college basketball games. In the 80s Carolina had the likes of superstars Sam Perkins, James Worthy, and the legendary Michael Jordan. In turn Duke had some great players, they had Johnny Dawkins, Gene Banks, and one of the most hated college athletes of all time, the man treated as if he was a pantomime villain, Christian Laettner. The games were always heated, and often game down to the wire to see who would be victorious.
The school’s have faced off against each other 240 times, stretching over 96 years, UNC lead the all-time standings 133-107. Though the schools have played each other many, many times over the years in the regular-season, the two have only ever played each other once in the post-season, and that was way back in 1971, They met in a NIT game, the Tar Heels have bragging rights over the Blue Devils when it comes to post-season action, winning their one meeting 73-67.
|Image per Jim Mone
In a poll taken in 2013 to show the price of college games for the top 5 ranked teams in the country at the time. Duke (#1) unsurprisingly ranked as the most expensive home-court in the nation, at a whopping $409, $87 more costly than second highest Kentucky (#2), next was Kansas (#3) who charged $298, moving onto more modest prices, to attend a Louisville (#4) game in 2013 it would cost you $87, and finally on to Michigan State (#5) who charged their loyal fans $75 a game. Now that sounds like a lot of money to watch 18-22 year old men play basketball for 40 minutes, but compared to the price of secondary market tickets, those prices are chump-change. Tickets have always been hard to come by for these fiery UNC vs Duke games, this season the average price for a Duke vs UNC ticket on the secondary market is reported to be around $1,900, the cheapest seat to tonight’s game is an astonishing $1.375.
Players to watch out for tonight
6’9″ freshman – SF, Brandon Ingram. Ingram is one of the best players in the country, he’s an excellent scorer and rebounder, he’s drawn comparisons to NBA star Kevin Durant throughout his young career, he’s a long, slim player who has tight handles and can score at a high rate. To me the KD comparison is a sensible one. Tipped to go either #1 or #2 in this June’s NBA Draft, he’s averaging 16.4ppg and 5.9rpg in his first collegiate season.
6’5″ sophomore – SG, Grayson Allen. Allen, the star of the 2015 NCAA Championship game, led his Blue Devils to a win over Wisconsin Badgers, scoring 8 points in a row and finishing with 16 points, and a championship ring. Averaging 20.8ppg and 5.2rpg Allen can be a real handful for defenders. Duke will be lucky to hold onto this young man as scouts will be tempting him to apply for the NBA Draft.
7’1″ senior – C, Marshall Plumlee. Plumlee will be key in tonight’s game. Duke are a small team, who only have an 8-man rotation, it’ll be important for Plumlee to stay out of foul trouble, but at the same time he’ll need to remain aggressive on the glass and rebound at a high clip, UNC are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and it could come down to Marshall’s activity whether duke win or lose. Only averaging 8.1ppg and 8.8rpg his importance doesn’t often show up on a stat sheet.
6’9″ senior – PF, Brice Johnson. Johnson is a great player, he loves to rebound and run the floor for his team. He’s not polished offensively, but he’s come along way in his 4 years at UNC, he’s another player who’s very likely to go in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft. Averaging 16.8ppg along with 10.6rpg Johnson has had a stellar senior season so far, even having a huge 39 point, 23 rebound game earlier in this calender year.
6’2″ senior – PG, Marcus Paige. Paige has had a solid career during his time at North Carolina. though in his last two seasons he’s been injury hit. His scoring and assist numbers dropped slightly for these last two years compared to his sophomore season, mainly due to the fact he battled Plantar Fasciitis for the whole of his junior season, and he broke his hand leading up to his senior season. Averaging only 13ppg and 3.7apg Paige is still likely to be selected this summer in the NBA Draft. when healthy he’s perfectly capable of leading a team, running an offence, and being able to score at a good rate.
6’8″ sophomore – G/F, Justin Jackson. Jackson is a player who can almost do it all, he can put the ball on the deck and drive to the rim, he has one of the best floaters in the nation, more than capable of hitting a hook shot if he takes his defender in the post. He rebounds at a good level for a player who plays predominantly on the perimeter. The one thing scouts will look for him to improve on is his distance shooting, while he is able to hit open 3s he doesn’t do it at a good enough rate. Averaging 12.1ppg, 3.7rpg and 3apg Jackson has been an integral part of the Tar Heels’ success this season.
For me, North Carolina’s depth may prove to be just too much for Duke tonight. I feel North Carolina will win this in a close game. 72-65 to the Tar Heels.