UNC vs. Duke: 10 crazy facts about college basketball's greatest rivalry
That last meeting was something, huh?
No matter what happens Saturday inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, it won’t top what we witnessed in April — when Caleb Love’s 3-point dagger helped North Carolina’s “K Slayers” end Mike Krzyzewski’s career in the Final Four.
Let others argue about whether Love’s shot replaced Jordan’s Jumper as the biggest shot in UNC history.
Today, the focus is purely on Duke and UNC, the new and young head coaches, and the latest edition of the greatest rivalry in college basketball.
Much is known, but here are 10 things you might not know about the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry.
1. First-year coach? Good luck …
Last year, Hubert Davis had a chance to accomplish something Hall of Famers Dean Smith and Krzyzewski did not: Beat their rival in their first meeting.
Alas, Davis did not. Duke spanked the Tar Heels by 20 in the Dean Dome (not that UNC fans care, giving how Davis’ next 2 games against went against the Blue Devils).
Now, new Duke coach Jon Scheyer gets his turn in his coaching debut against the Heels.
Since the 1950s, only 3 coaches beat their rival on their first try: 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 started 0-4 against the Blue Devils.
2. Neither coach has 50 career wins …
Coach K retired with 1,202 wins, the most in men’s Div. I history.
Dean Smith retired with 879 wins, then the record. Roy Williams retired with 903.
Saturday, neither coach has as many as 50 career wins. Davis has 44; Scheyer 16.
How strange is that?
Duke and UNC were founding members when the ACC launched in 1953-54. This will be their first meeting as ACC rivals in which neither has a 50-game winner on the sideline.
The last time it happened? During the 1944-45 season, Ben Carnevale was in first year at UNC and Gerry Gerard was in Year 3 at Duke. Neither had previous wins anywhere else.
3. Hubert Davis scored more points in a game against Duke than MJ …
Davis, the 2nd-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.
Michael Jordan’s best effort vs. Duke was 32 — twice.
4. Jon Scheyer vs. UNC
Scheyer went 3-5 vs. UNC during his 4-year career at Duke.
Two of those victories came during Duke’s 2010 national championship season.
Scheyer will never be mistaken for JJ Redick, but he saved his best for the Heels: 3 of his top-10 scoring games came against UNC, as did 5 of his 30 career 20-point games.
He topped out at 26 — as a freshman is his introductory game to the rivalry.
5. They’re both unranked?
Duke and UNC spend more time in the top 10 than they do outside of the Top 25.
That’s another reason Saturday’s tilt will be different.
Neither is ranked.
This will be the first time in a non-COVID year that they’ve met as unranked teams since Feb. 27, 1960.
Dean Smith was still an assistant at Kansas. Krzyzewski had just turned 13. The programs had combined for 1 NCAA championship. So, yeah, it’s been awhile.
This also marks the first time in non-COVID year that Duke enters this matchup unranked since the 1995-96 season. Duke went 4 consecutive games vs. UNC over the 1994-95 and ’95-96 seasons without being ranked.
Carolina hasn’t entered this game ranked since the 2018-19 season — this marks the 8th consecutive games vs. Duke (including the COVID stretch). UNC jumped into the poll at No. 25 after beating Duke in K’s final game last year but then fell out in the final poll before the NCAA Tournament.
6. 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 beside Ford’s name if you want, because UNC and Duke met 3 times annually in the regular season when he played.
Tyler Hansbrough and Michael Jordan, each with 161, 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.
7. Hansbrough’s House …
They call it K-Ville, but it might has well have been Hansbrough’s House.
Tyler Hansbrough famously went 4-0 at Cameron Indoor. You probably knew that.
That means Hansbrough won as many games at Cameron Indoor as Kyrie Irving did. Irving suffered a foot injury that limited him to just 11 games during his lone season at Duke — which included just 4 games at home (all wins).
Hansbrough scored 76 points at Cameron Indoor, obviously all against Duke.
Irving scored 74 points at home … but he never faced the Tar Heels.
8. More home invaders …
Beginning with Krzyzewski’s arrival in 1980-81, UNC is 21-22 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Saturday, they can even the record in that span.
The Heels have won the past 2, too. Saturday, they can become just the 3rd UNC group to win 3 consecutive games at Duke since 1980.
Hansbrough (and Co.) won their 4th in a row at Duke during their 2009 championship season — matching what Michael Jordan and Co. did from 1982-85. (Jordan started that streak with 3 wins before leaving early for the NBA. Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty completed the 4-game streak in 1985 — which also meant that Buzz Peterson also went 4-0 at Cameron, just like Hansbrough.)
9. MJ vs. Coach K
Coach K and Jordan have exited the Triangle, but the memories last forever. And this is too good not to share again.
Krzyzewski arrived at Duke in 1980-81, 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.
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.
10. Speaking of debuts …
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.
Everything about Saturday will be different, from the location to the coaches to the rankings.
But it’s still Duke vs. UNC — the 3 most beautiful and impactful words in college basketball.
(Editor’s note: Portions of this article appeared in a previous UNC-Duke rivalry article published on Saturday Road.)