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Duke and North Carolina have faced off 257 times in the storied history of the Tobacco Road rivalry, but maybe none more important than their Final Four matchup on Saturday.

These two blue bloods have played in countless classics over the decades. In the Mike Krzyzewski era…

  • Duke and UNC have faced off in a top-10 battle 35 times
  • The No. 1 team in the country has lost this game 8 times
  • Duke and UNC have met as two unranked teams just twice

With that in mind, it’s exceptionally difficult to narrow this rivalry down to just a handful of iconic games. Nevertheless, here are 7 that stand out from the rest:

Jan. 18, 1986: The Dean Dome’s first game

This was the first time the Dean Dome played a part in the Duke-UNC rivalry, but this game stands out for so many reasons. It was No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Duke — and the Tar Heels ultimately prevailed in a classic, 95-92.

Dean Smith vs. Mike Krzyzewski hardly got any better than this. Both rosters were loaded with huge names in this rivalry, including Kenny Smith, Jay Bilas, Johnny Dawkins, Brad Daugherty, Tommy Amaker, Danny Ferry, Steve Bucknall and more.

North Carolina led by as many as 16 points before Duke got back into the game in the second half. An 8-0 run down the stretch gave Duke a chance, but UNC’s defense was able to get enough stops to seal the win.

Feb. 8, 2012: The Austin Rivers game

North Carolina led for most of this game, but Austin Rivers had the last laugh. Rivers finished with 29 points and 6 3-pointers — including a classic buzzer beater over future NBA regular Tyler Zeller.

Here’s the clip, with Dick Vitale on the call:

That Rivers 3-pointer capped off an incredible Duke comeback. Krzyzewski’s team finished the game on a 13-2 run over the final 2+ minutes of game action.

Unfortunately for Duke, Rivers and that Blue Devils team didn’t get a storybook ending. They infamously lost to No. 15-seeded Lehigh in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, North Carolina made a run all the way to the Elite Eight.

March 5, 2022: North Carolina beats Duke in Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game

The energy in Cameron Indoor Stadium was palpable on March 5, 2022. It was Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game of his legendary coaching career. Duke students had been camped out for weeks with the hope of getting tickets. Celebrities, Duke alumni and hundreds of media members flocked to Durham just to see the spectacle.

And then North Carolina shocked the world.

With the pain of a 20-point loss in Chapel Hill earlier that year still fresh, UNC played a much different game in Durham. Four different Tar Heels — Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Brady Manek — scored 20+ points. Even Duke’s offense — which featured five potential first-round draft picks — wasn’t able to keep up.

UNC ended up running away with the win, 94-81.

Feb. 8, 2020: Double buzzer beater

What this game lacked in stakes, it made up for in drama. The Tar Heels were just 10-12 on the year, but they still proved to be a very formidable opponent at home.

North Carolina led by 3 in the final seconds of regulation. The Tar Heels intentionally fouled Tre Jones to send him to the line with 4.4 seconds remaining. He made the first, missed the second, got his own rebound and somehow found the bottom of the net on a desperation jumper.

Then, in overtime, it happened again. Jones missed a potential go-ahead free throw with 6.6 seconds remaining. He attempted another game winner, which missed low and left, but was finished by then-freshman Wendell Moore Jr. Here’s video of the entire sequence:


March 3, 1984: Michael Jordan leads UNC to double OT win

This was Michael Jordan’s last home game vs. Duke, and he certainly made it count. He scored 25 points in a double overtime win that’s been remembered by Carolina fans for generations.

North Carolina pulled away in the second overtime and eventually won, 96-83. Here’s video from the game:

This was one of the end of Krzyzewski’s worst era vs. North Carolina. He lost 8 of his first 9 contests vs. the Tar Heels before breaking through. This Duke team beat No. 1 UNC in the ACC Tournament exactly one week later.

Feb. 5, 2004: Duke spoils Roy Williams’ first game in the rivalry

Roy Williams’ first game in the rivalry was certainly one to remember. Williams and Krzyzewski had history — they faced off in the 1991 National Championship Game when Williams was still the coach at Kansas.

No. 1 Duke ended up winning in overtime on the road in Chapel Hill thanks to an acrobatic layup from Chris Duhon with 6.5 seconds remaining. Here’s video of the final sequence:

Feb. 5, 1992: North Carolina wins an instant classic over No. 1 Duke

This is arguably the most unforgettable game from an era that produced several iconic Duke-North Carolina matchups. UNC beat Duke 75-73 in a bloody clash that included broken bones, amongst other things. UNC’s Eric Montross suffered multiple elbows the face. Duke’s Bobby Hurley broke his foot during this game, but played through the pain.

Hubert Davis scored 16 points in the win and Derrick Phelps hit two free throws in the final seconds that proved to be decisive. The legendary — or infamous, if you prefer — Christian Laettner missed a pair of free throws that could have forced overtime. Laettner also had a floater rim out on Duke’s final possession.