7 things you didn't know about the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry
No matter which shade of blue you’ll be wearing Saturday evening for Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at the Smith Center, there’s one thing UNC and Duke fans can agree on: They’re better off having each other.
To hate like this is to be happy forever, right?
Books have been written, legends made, noses and hearts broken. The rivalry, born on Tobacco Road, has grown beyond state and regional boundaries into the greatest in the sport’s history.
Much is known, but here are 7 things you might not know about the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry.
1. MJ vs. Coach K
Mike Krzyzewski arrived at Duke in 1980-81, which was Jordan’s senior year at Laney High School in Wilmington, NC. Coach K never had a shot at landing Jordan, who committed to Dean Smith and UNC shortly before his senior season.
Coach K's letter to Michael Jordan when he found out he wouldn't be coming to Duke pic.twitter.com/J5Gq4v1Vb0
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 20, 2015
Jordan’s impact was immediate, indeed. He scored 19 in his first game against Duke, leading the Tar Heels to a 73-63 victory at Cameron Indoor. He added 11 as the Tar Heels swept the regular-season series in the regular season-finale at Carmichael Auditorium (the Dean Dome didn’t open until 1986 — 2 years after Jordan left; more on that in a minute).
Jordan was even more dominant as a sophomore. He scored 32 in both games, helping the Tar Heels record their 2 highest point totals in the series in blowout wins, 103-82 at UNC, and 105-81 at Cameron Indoor — the most any opponent has scored at Duke.
As a junior, Jordan scored 18 in a win at Duke — making him 3-0 lifetime at Cameron Indoor — then added 27 in his final home game, another victory over Duke. UNC’s 6 consecutive victories over Coach K remain his longest such drought in the series.
Apparently, nobody beats Mike Krzyzewski 7 times in a row, however. (Well, Ralph Sampson and Virginia did, and Coach K started 0-8 against Wake Forest, but let’s keep the focus on UNC-Duke, OK?)
Coach K got his only win vs. Jordan in their final encounter — the 1984 ACC Tournament semifinals. Jordan scored 22 — giving him 161 in 7 career games vs. the Blue Devils.
(Footnote: Duke’s victory robbed us of one final encounter between Jordan and Maryland star sophomore Len Bias. What a showdown that would have been. Bias, the tournament MVP, scored 26 to lead Maryland to the ACC title.)
2. Hubert Davis scored more points in a game against Duke than MJ …
Davis, the first-year UNC head coach, could play a little bit, too.
Among his many accomplishments: He scored 35 against Duke’s 1992 national championship team. That ties for the 4th-most points any Tar Heel scored against Duke — and it’s tied with Antawn Jamison for UNC’s most vs. Coach K.
As mentioned, Jordan’s best effort was 32 — twice.
3. First-year coach? Good luck …
Hubert Davis has a chance to accomplish something Hall of Famers Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski didn’t: Beat their rival in their first meeting.
Since the 1950s, only 3 coaches in this rivalry won their first game against the other team: UNC’s Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty, and Duke’s Bill Foster.
Krzyzewski started 0-2 against UNC. Dean Smith started 0-7 against Duke. Roy Williams lost his first game against Duke. Frank McGuire dropped his first 4 games against the Blue Devils.
4. Phil Ford scored 251 career points vs. Duke
Ford and Lennie Rosenbluth, star of UNC’s undefeated 1957 national championship team, share the UNC record for most career points vs. Duke.
Add an asterisk if you want, because UNC and Duke met 3 times annually in the regular season when Ford played.
Hansbrough and Jordan, each with 161, have scored the most points against Coach K’s Duke teams.
Duke legend Mike Gminski is the Blue Devils’ all-time leading scorer in the series with 241 points.
5. Tyler Hansbrough scored more points at Cameron Indoor than Kyrie Irving …
Sure, Saturday’s game is in Chapel Hill, but this nugget is too good to save.
Hansbrough famously went 4-0 at Cameron Indoor. You probably knew that. A foot injury limited Irving to just 8 starts during his lone season in Durham — which included just 4 starts at home.
Hansbrough scored 76 points at Cameron Indoor, obviously all against Duke.
Irving scored 74 points at home … but he never faced the Tar Heels.
6. The day the Dean Dome opened …
Duke’s Cameron Indoor has become college basketball’s best homecourt advantage, but it wasn’t always that way.
UNC played at Carmichael Auditorium, which was even smaller and just as cramped and loud as Cameron.
UNC went 169-20 at Carmichael, which gradually grew to accommodate 10,200 fans. A lot of the jerseys you see hanging from the Dean Dome rafters belonged to guys who starred at Carmichael.
Alas, tradition eventually gave way to demand … and the Dean E. Smith Center was born. Intimate, it is not. The Smith Center’s capacity is more than 21,000 — twice the size of Carmichael.
The project began in April of 1982, about the same time Jordan beat Georgetown with his iconic jumper to give Smith his first NCAA championship.
The Tar Heels christened their new palace in the most fitting way — vs. Duke, on Jan. 18, 1986.
Both teams were undefeated. UNC was No. 1 in the country. Duke was No. 3.
UNC won 95-92. Coach K, never shy about challenging officials, was issued a technical that triggered the Tar Heels’ game-changing 12-0 run.
7. Coach K at the Dean Dome
Saturday will be Krzyzewski’s final game at the Dean Dome, where he’s experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
Krzyzewski is 16-19 at the Smith Center. Seven of those wins, however, came against UNC teams that were ranked in the top 5 — highlighted by Austin Rivers’ game-winning 3 to upset the No. 5 Tar Heels 85-84 in 2012.
That won’t be the case Saturday. UNC is unranked — but that hardly guarantees a Duke win. Three times, an unranked UNC team has knocked off one of Coach K’s top-10 squads at the Dean Dome — and twice more took Duke to OT before the Blue Devils escaped.