Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Does UNC's 13-10 start have anything to do with a ghoulish spell cast down last season by the Cameron Crazies?
The No. 6 Blue Devils trounced the No. 15 Tar Heels 79-51 in the women’s matchup Monday night, and tonight on ESPN at 9 (ET) the men do battle in what is arguably college basketball’s biggest rivalry.
The Tar Heels (13-10) enter the game losers of three straight and six of their last seven, including Sunday’s 21-point loss to Maryland (UNC’s worst margin of defeat under coach Roy Williams). The Tar Heels are a half-game ahead of Miami and NC State for last place in the ACC. Meanwhile, Duke (19-4) stands on the opposite side of the spectrum, ranked No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, winning two straight and having the Commander-in-Chief grace them with his presence at Georgetown.
Most of you rivalry historians already know UNC defeated Duke 36-25 in their first ever meeting on January 24, 1920 and the Tar Heels lead the all-time series 130-97, but you may not be aware of just how deeply this rivalry extends. Hint: it's way beyond Cameron Indoor Arena and the Smith Center.
The day before a Duke-UNC basketball game, The Chronicle, Duke's school newspaper, publishes a spoof cover page entitled The Daily Tar Hole mocking UNC's school newspaper called The Daily Tar Heel. The edition contains fake stories taunting the Tar Heels and their school paper. As retaliation, The Daily Tar Heel normally publishes Ian Williams' "Insider's guide to hating Duke" prior to each matchup. Pushing the envelope even further, the two publications have agreed the loser of the first basketball matchup must put the winning school's logo in a prominent area of the school paper claiming the winning school is "still the best." If Duke wins the game, The Daily Tar Heel is required to print their masthead in Duke blue and if UNC is victorious, The Chronicle must stamp their masthead in Tar Heel powder blue. We haven't seen this much action in periodicals since Newsies hit theaters in 1992!
Even after graduating from the rivalry, former alumni still feel tremors from The Battle of Tobacco Road. J.J. Redick, former Duke Blue Devil and the 2006 Naismith College Player of the Year gets booed every time he steps foot in the Time Warner Cable Arena for a Magic versus Bobcats game. Although, Redick doesn't hate the Bobcats faithful for their taunting; it reminds him of his traumatic childhood days. "I was a Duke fan growing up, but I guess I'm different. To this day, I'm not a UNC-hater. The more positive spin is that I'm a Duke lover. When they lost, I bawled, cried my eyes out as a kid." And all this time we thought Duke kids only cried when they lost to Maryland.
Meanwhile, former Tar Heel George Karl and Duke alumnus Dahntay Jones are not as understanding about The Battle of the Blues. In a 2009 interview, the two Nuggets took jabs at one another with Karl calling Duke "old, dusty, antiquated and dinosauric" while Jones bragged about Duke's instrumental program on top of calling Duke alumni "elitists." Really Dahntay, that's all you had? At the end of the 2009 season, Jones signed a free agent contract with the Pacers and left his former Nuggets coach. Coincidence? We think not.
Ultimately, the two juggernaut programs can coexist when it's for the right cause. In 2006, students from both institutions got together from January 14-16 to attempt to break the Guinness record for longest continuous basketball game. The inaugural Duke-Carolina Student Basketball Marathon (runs yearly now) raised $60,000 with all proceeds going to the Hoop Dreams Basketball Academy, an organization which helps children with life-threatening illnesses develop successful life skills through basketball. The game lasted 57 hours, 17 minutes and 41 seconds (a record which was later broken) with Duke winning the game 3699-3444. This rivalry is so heated they use a "win by 255" rule.
The next chapter to this storied rivalry gets written tonight at 9 (ET) on ESPN right after Connecticut takes on No. 3 Syracuse at 7 (ET).