Battle of the Blue Bloods: ACC rivals meet in Final Four

Daniel Figueredo, Sports Writer

For as long as college sports have been popular, North Carolina giants UNC and Duke have been going at each other’s throats relentlessly. The basketball court has been one of their biggest battlefields, as many unforgettable and at times controversial moments have occurred in their contests. This year, however, presents a historic milestone as UNC and Duke are set to meet in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in rivalry history on April 2. This means that an already heated rivalry, which many have called “the greatest sports rivalry in America” will have an extra layer of drama as the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will be competing for a spot in the National Championship.
To better understand the significance of the upcoming match-up, one must first understand the history of bad blood between the two schools. The incident that is largely believed to be the beginning of the Duke and UNC rivalry is when Art Heyman pulled out of his commitment to UNC and decided to commit to Duke in the early 1960s. Things escalated in the following years with various brawls and player suspensions. However, the more modern rivalry flourished in the 1980s and 90s where Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) and UNC coach Dean Smith became two of the most successful college basketball coaches in history, and both schools traded national championships.
Expectations for UNC and Duke’s Final Four game are high because on top of their historic rivalry, there are also various important storylines going into the game which are sure to up the intensity even more.
“It’s gonna be an intense game because of their history. Duke should win because of their NBA talent, but UNC is my team and I see them winning if they control the tempo and keep the pressure on,” senior Tay Long said.
The biggest of the storylines being that Coach K will retire this season after 42 years with Duke, making this tourney his last Big Dance. This matchup is also being billed as a revenge game for Duke after what occurred in their regular season contests early this year, specifically Coach K’s final home game.
After refusing to honor Coach K like many other teams had at home in the Dean Smith Center, the Tar Heels then went on to spoil Krzyzewski’s big home farewell at Cameron Indoor Stadium with a 94-81 win over the Blue Devils.
“Duke’s angry about that game [Coach K’s last home game], they’re gonna be coming with a lot of adrenaline, especially now that they know they aren’t invincible against UNC,” senior Logan Langford said.
Another important storyline is Hubert Davis taking UNC to the Final Four in only his first year as head coach. Davis played for UNC in his college days and served as an assistant coach until he was selected to replace Roy Williams as head coach. Davis reached the Final Four as a player and assistant coach as well, becoming one of the only people to reach the Final Four in all three roles.
Students are relatively split on who they want to win, many are life long and diehard fans of one school and the choice was not difficult. Others made their decisions based on their connections to the school.
“Duke’s winning, they’re just better. It’s Coach K’s last season and he’s going out with a championship no question,” junior Brandt Doty said.
Some students weren’t fans of either Duke or UNC and had no real connection to either, and made their decision based on who they picked in their brackets, or who they thought would realistically win.
“I’m leaning toward Duke. UNC’s kind of a Cinderella and is riding momentum, but you can’t keep a team like Duke down and you can only beat them so many times in one season,” sophomore Rylan Santos said.
Having both Duke and UNC facing off has also lead to situations of “a house divided” for many, as students may support one school and have family or friends who support the other
“I’m a UNC fan and I want them to win, but I’m really close to a lot of Duke fans so I’m not a crazy love UNC hate Duke kinda person,” sophomore Kendall Pridgen said.
The winner between Duke and UNC this Saturday will not only punch their ticket to the National Championship Game, but will also have the pleasure of knocking out their most bitter rival, and will claim bragging rights for a considerable amount of time.