In the history of sports, there are a few rivalries that rise above the rest. Alabama and Auburn. Ohio State and Michigan. The Yankees and the Red Sox. That tier includes Duke and North Carolina, which is easily the greatest rivalry in college basketball.
Both teams in North Carolina have seen historic success over the past few decades, and this rivalry always includes some of the best players in the sport. It’s given us crazy moments from Austin Rivers’ game-winner to Zion Williamson’s shoe game.
History is what makes this rivalry unique, but it will see a shift over the next few seasons. Roy Williams has retired from UNC, and Coach K is in his final season with the Duke Blue Devils. This will be the end of an era, and this series will never be the same after the 2021-22 season.
The stadium will be packed for any games featuring these two programs this year, and fans will want to give Coach K a proper sendoff.
Duke has +1300 odds to win a championship, but that doesn’t matter when you play a bitter rival. Who will win this season?
Duke missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in many fans’ lifetimes last year, but they hope to go back to their winning ways in the upcoming season. With it being Coach K’s final year, there is no doubt that players will be looking to end his legacy on a high note.
Thankfully, Duke has a solid recruiting class coming in. In the past, Duke has won with a balance of talented freshmen and experienced role players. This season, Duke will have to rely solely on underclassmen.
Duke brings in three five-star recruits from the 2021 class, and all of them should start in their freshmen year. This will bring new energy to the Blue Devils, and they desperately need it if they want next year’s college basketball scores to be favorable to them.
Paolo Banchero is the second-best recruit from 2021, and he will be the focal point on both sides of the ball this year. Duke has played its best with at least one superstar, and they will need Banchero to be that player this season.
Even if Duke fails to win the ACC or make it to the Final Four, they will be graded on how well they play against North Carolina. Winning this series goes on the resume and carries just as much weight as anything else.
North Carolina will look strange this year without Roy Williams prowling the sidelines. Still, he leaves the Tarheels in good hands. Despite having a down year, North Carolina made the NCAA Tournament in 2021. They hope to have similar success with their new coach, Hubert Davis.
Davis’s ties to the Tarheels run deep. He was an experienced assistant for Williams, so there should be some familiarity with the program and system as he takes over.
When you lose a legendary coach, one of two things happens. Players will either give up and abandon ship, or they will rally around the new coach and the change of power. It’s too early to see what will happen at UNC, but players should feel comfortable with Davis.
While UNC had more success last season, they bring in a significantly worse recruiting class. They only have two four-star players coming out of high school, and they only landed two players from the transfer portal.
North Carolina will be different, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t beat Duke. Who should we back with our college basketball picks?
Who Will Win?
Duke will have heightened urgency in this series. Still, will that be enough?
North Carolina has more experience on the court, but Duke has more experience with their head coach. At the end of the day, it seems impossible that Coach K would lose his final games against his bitter rival. When he knows it will be his last time to face off against UNC, he will demand greatness from his team, and they will deliver for their coach.
Duke winning at home should be a lock. That will be a primetime event filled to the brim with loyal fans. For the road game, the Blue Devils will have enough experience from the regular season to overcome any obstacle.