Duke-North Carolina, Round 2 for 2017






The second game of the  2017 basketball season between Duke and North Carolina unfolds Saturday night in Chapel Hill. Last month, Duke held the Tar Heels at bay in Durham by an 86-78 score.   These games are always exciting and seem to go down to the final seconds. Let’s look back, in chronological order, at some of the more memorable games and moments between the schools.

In the March 2, 1974 game in Chapel Hill, UNC trailed Duke by eight points with 17 seconds to go. Two Carolina free throws cut the deficit to six then UNC stole two consecutive in bounds passes that led to easy scores. After a missed Blue Devil free throw, UNC had the ball down by three with three seconds left in the contest. UNC freshman Walter Davis banked in a 30-foot shot to send the game into overtime, where the Tar Heels prevailed, 96-92.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, NC on March 10, 1984, number one ranked UNC, led by Michael Jordan, played Duke in the semifinals. Behind the efforts of Tommy Amaker and Johnny Dawkins, Duke led by two late in the game. The Tar Heels’ Matt Doherty prepared to throw the ball in with three seconds left and UNC with a chance to win or force overtime. Doherty threw the ball away and Duke pulled off the upset, 77-75.

The February 5, 1992 game in Chapel Hill will be remembered as one of the more physical battles between the two schools. Duke’s Bobby Hurley suffered a broken foot, but the lasting image will always be Carolina’s Eric Montross at the free throw line late in the game with blood pouring down his face. Carolina edged Duke, 75-73.

At Cameron Indoor Arena in Durham on February 2, 1995, the Tar Heels escaped with a 102-100 double overtime victory. Two of the more memorable moments occurred when ESPN analyst Dick Vitale nearly fell out of his chair after UNC’s Jerry Stackhouse executed a thunderous dunk while being fouled and Duke’s Jeff Capel hit a 37-foot basket that sent the game to double overtime.

The next memorable game took place in Chapel Hill on February 28, 1998. The Blue Devils trailed the Tar Heels by 15 points in the first half, but Duke freshman Elton Brand got hot and the Blue Devils overtook UNC in the second half.  Still, UNC had chances in the final seconds to tie the game, but two different Tar Heels missed free throws. Coach Mike Krzyzewski earned his 500th career win as the Blue Devils won another close one, 77-75.

A classic took place in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill on February 8, 2012. Carolina led most of the game but could never pull away from the Blue Devils. Duke freshman Austin Rivers cast himself as a legend in this storied rivalry with a three-pointer at the buzzer to propel Duke to an 85-84 victory.

These memorable moments demonstrate a small portion of the plays, players, and pictures so indelibly etched in the memories of Tar Heel, Blue Devil, and college basketball fans. Both teams are generally ranked and fighting for ACC championships and seeding in the national tournament every year, so these games carry even more weight than that of a simple rivalry. Yet, no matter the records or which team supposedly has the better players or coaches, these games transcend mortal logic and metaphysical boundaries. The sublime seems to be the norm. Carolina-Duke may arguably be the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

Duke-North Carolina Basketball




Eight miles, as the crow flies, separate the campuses of these two fierce rivals. If you drive along Highway 15-501 (Tobacco Road), the distance stretches to ten miles. The close proximity between Duke University (Blue Devils) and the University of North Carolina (Tar Heels) may explain the intense rivalry between the schools, especially in basketball. The following will offer some facts that you may not know about these two storied basketball programs.

The schools began to tip it off in 1920 and North Carolina holds a 134-108 series advantage. In the last 91 meetings, Duke owns a 46-45 edge, and the last time neither team was ranked at game time was in 1955. From 1988 through 2001, every Final Four except one (1996), included Duke and/or North Carolina.

Roy Williams coaches the Tar Heels and Mike Krzyzewski leads the Blue Devils.  Williams was at Kansas from 1988 until 2003, then left for North Carolina. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980. As you may imagine, both coaches own some impressive statistics at their combined schools. Krzyzewski has 12 Final Four appearances while Williams has 8. Coach K has 90 NCAA tournament wins while Williams has 70. Coach K has the most 30-win seasons of any active coach, 14, while Williams is second with 11. Coach K has five national championships and Williams has two, while Coach K has 13 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships and Williams has 11 Big 8/Big 12/ACC conference championships.

Besides owning one of the best rivalries in sports, North Carolina and Duke are ranked among college basketball’s elite programs. After the 2016 season, North Carolina ranked third and Duke fourth in overall wins. Both schools have five national championships, which ties them for third among all college basketball programs. Finally, North Carolina ranks first with 19 Final Four appearances while Duke is fourth with 16.

North Carolina and Duke play each other at least twice a year and each game seems to be a battle to the end reminiscent of the Roman gladiator days. The players leave everything on the court while the two great generals dig deep into their coaching bags to find some play, some word of advice, some psychological edge that may tip the scale in their favor. In the league of wine and cheese, this game deserves a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 and a pound of beaufort d’ete!


Duke University Traditions


The Blue Devil nickname and the Cameron Crazies can only be associated with one school—Duke University. These two traditions give immediate recognition to the school and add to the color and pageantry of college athletics. Let’s take a look at the origins of the nickname and the student group.

After World War I, the school was known as Trinity College (became Duke University in 1924) and intercollegiate football, after about a 25 year hiatus, began play again in 1920. Trinity fielded a team in the late 1880s coached by school president John Franklin Crowell, a graduate of then-football power Yale University. However, the Trinity leaders banned the sport in the 1890s because of its brutality, eligibility disputes, scheduling problems, money, its improper role on the Methodist-sponsored campus, and a power struggle between Crowell and the leaders.

With the popularity of football growing in the South, Trinity students felt passionately that a proper nickname needed to be established for the football team and the other athletic programs. In 1921, the student newspaper, the Trinity Chronicle urged the student body to offer potential nicknames for the school. Some of the names submitted were the Catamounts, the Grizzlies, the Badgers, and the Dreadnaughts. Unsatisfied with the initial round of nominations, the editors of the paper urged the students to think of appropriate names associated with the school colors of dark blue and white. The editors offered suggestions such as the Blue Titans, Blue Eagles, Blue Warriors, and Blue Devils. Again, none of the names inspired public passion and the football season passed without one.

The seniors of the Class of 1923 took it upon themselves to pick a school moniker. Many of them had fought during World War I and remembered a well-trained and courageous French unit known as “les Diables Bleus,” the Blue Devils. They wore distinctive blue uniforms with flowing capes and a blue beret. The editors of the Chronicle began referring to the athletic teams during the 1922-1923 academic year as the Blue Devils. While the rest of the college press and the cheerleaders declined to use the name that year, they did not oppose its use by the Chronicle. Not even the Methodist college administration put up any resistance. The Chronicle continued to use the Blue Devil nickname for the teams and eventually the name became accepted as the official moniker for Duke sports.

On the other hand, the Cameron Crazies are a more recent phenomenon. The term Cameron Crazies took root in 1986 to describe the raucous and entertaining behavior of the Duke students during the school’s home basketball games at Cameron Indoor Arena. No one knows for certain the origin of the name. In the early 1980s, the students berated opposing players and coaches using obscenities and other outrageous methods. This prompted Duke president Terry Sanford to write a letter to the students expressing his dissatisfaction with their methods, “Resorting to the use of obscenities in cheers and chants at ball games indicates a lack of vocabulary, a lack of cleverness, a lack of ideas, a lack of class and a lack of respect for other people.” He urged the students to “think of something clever but clean, devastating but decent, mean but wholesome, witty and forceful but G-rated for television, and fix it for the next game.”

Not long after Sanford’s letter, the students began to achieve fame for their cleverness and wit. They invented the term “air ball,” an errant shot that hits nothing but air. When University of North Carolina guard Jeff Hale, who had suffered from a collapsed lung, came to Cameron, the students regaled him with “In-Hale, Ex-Hale” the whole game. Current UNC coach Roy Williams left the University of Kansas to coach the Tar Heels in 2003. When he came to Cameron for the first time in 2004, he found much of the Crazies dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz movie and a temporary yellow brick road outside his team’s locker room to give him the not so subtle message that he was no longer in Kansas.

The Crazies took aim at a skinny player on the Lehigh basketball team who wore knee-high socks and goggles. He was known for two hours as “Urkel,” a character from a popular television show in the 1990s. Smaller players would hear “Webster” yelled at them the whole game. Webster was another television character from a popular television show that ran in the 1980s. Maybe one of the wittier chants involved a diminutive player from the Australian National team. The Crazies yelled “Shrimp on the Barbee” every time he touched the ball.

Duke University is consistently recognized as one of the best academic institutions in the country. Its Blue Devil nickname and famous Cameron Crazies resonate with those enthralled with college athletics, and these two traditions are two more reasons why college sports rank at the top of entertainment sources.