KRZYZEWSKIVILLE, NC – It’s 5 o’clock Tuesday afternoon and like most municipalities around the country, it’s rush hour in Krzyzewskiville.

Only instead of cars on the Interstate, the gridlock here involves college students covered in blue and white body paint, waiting anxiously in line for the doors to Cameron Indoor Stadium to open. 

You might even spot a Power Ranger or 2.

The frenzy of activity is a prelude to Duke’s game against Wake Forest. But the Blue Devils’ 75-73 win against Wake Forest was only a dress rehearsal. The main event will take place Saturday when North Carolina makes the short 8-mile trip over from Chapel Hill for the latest renewal of the best rivalry in college sports.

The ritual of pitching tents and enduring the elements to ensure entry into the big game rather than spending winter nights in a warm dormitory is a Duke tradition that predates Mike Krzyzewski’s arrival in Durham in 1980.

It became known as Krzyzewskiville after one of the first residents scribbled the name on a pizza box delivered by the Hall of Fame coach himself, and hung it onto the outside of his tent. 

The population has grown considerably over the years, both in size and organization. This season, the lawn outside Cameron is filled with 80 tents, occupied by up to 12 undergraduate students each and governed by a strict set of rules enforced by a group of peers known as line monitors.

As the lead up to the Wake game suggests, the tradition remains alive and even though its namesake has since retired – handing the program over to former Blue Devils point guard Jon Scheyer.

Even the name remains the same.

It’s still Krzyzewskiville. Not Scheytown.

And yet despite the continuity and the building anticipation for Saturday’s game, there’s something discernibly different about the vibe of the community this time around. It’s a change noticeable to even the most fervent members of the Cameron Crazies.

“I’m going to be 100% honest, no, it doesn’t feel the same,” said Savanna Woods, a junior from Richmond, Va., and an occupant of a disco-themed tent named “Stayin’ A-Lively” in honor of freshman center Dereck Lively II.

“I think it’s because Coach K was … Coach K. He was such a figure in basketball history. We love Jon Scheyer, but it’s his first year. So it feels different. We’re waiting to see what he can do, versus celebrating the end of a fantastic era.”

That era, which included 5 national championships, ended with a whimper not a bang.

Not only did the dreaded Tar Heels spoil Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron, but a month later in New Orleans they also provided the buzz kill that dampened what was supposed to have been a triumphant farewell at the Final Four.

But the hangover from those heart-wrenching defeats and the departure of the GOAT aren’t necessarily the only reasons behind the apparent energy shortage.

Timing may also have something to do with it.

This year’s UNC game at Cameron is the 1st of the 2 regular season rivalry showdowns. Because tents are not allowed to go up until the start of spring semester classes, the occupants of Krzyzewski only have to spend about 3 weeks in their encampments.

That compares to nearly 8 weeks when, as is the case in even numbered years, the Tar Heels come to Durham on the final day of the regular season in early March.

“In some ways, (the shorter tenting season) is a good thing, because it allows us to prioritize our physical and mental health a little bit more. But it’s also a bit of a bad thing,” said Thomas Ross, a senior political science major seemingly oblivious to the chaos surrounding him as he sits quietly in front of his tent doing some schoolwork on his laptop. 

“I’ve tented twice in the past during long seasons and the community in K-ville was a lot stronger then. You don’t have as much time to build relationships. You can see more friends more consistently in K-ville when it’s the last game, you spend significantly more hours out here then.”

Residents don’t have to spend all their time in their tents.

Of the 12 members of each group, only 2 are required to be present during the day and 10 each night during the 1st segment of the tenting season. The number decreases during the 2nd segment before increasing again the week before the game.

“Grace,” is given anytime the temperature dips below 25 degrees, more than 2 inches of snow falls or a severe weather warning is issued. They might be Crazies, but they’re smart enough to come in out of the rain.

Random tent checks are held 4 times per day (and night). Failure to comply with the rules could lead to eviction.

Sam Dale, a senior from Glenview, Ill., decked out in full Blue Power Ranger regalia in anticipation of Tuesday’s game against Wake, said that he and his crew have spent around 37 hours per person in their tent since staking out their prime piece of real estate on Jan. 14.

And their Krzyzeswskiville address is a good one.

But unlike most other locales where “location, location, location” is everything, it means little to nothing here.

That’s because of change instituted in 2019 during the frenzy surrounding Zion Williamson’s 1-and-done season at Duke. Instead of determining a student’s place in line for the UNC game by the order in which their tent went up, it’s now done through a series of tests, spirit contests and attendance at other campus events.

So even though the “Stayin’ A-Lively” tent with its faux pink flamingos out front is situated in the high-rent district at the corner closest to Cameron’s student entrance, its inhabitants are no longer guaranteed of being the 1st ones in the door on game day.

The questions on the test all have something to do with Duke and Blue Devils basketball.

And they can be quite detailed.

“One of the questions was, ‘What’s the player’s dog’s birthday?’ It can get super specific,” said junior Christopher Lloyd of Houston, Texas.

“You have to know all this specific stuff, even stuff about their families, their Instagrams,” added tentmate Emily Miller, from Northern California. “You have to, like, stalk the players.”

The payoff of being front-and-center for the game that marks the unofficial start of the “real” college basketball season, they say, is worth the effort.

Not to mention the cold.

The mud.

All the empty beer cans.

And the smell.

While the vibe around Krzyzewski might seem more subdued than it has in past years, the energy level increases noticeably once rush hour arrives, the doors open and the Blue Devils take the floor.

“The Cameron Crazies always show out every game,” junior guard Jeremy Roach said after scoring 21 points to help beat the Deacons. “You can feel their energy when you’re on the court.”

This year’s team has needed all the energy it can get. Stocked with a group of mostly inexperienced players with an inexperienced new coach, Duke had gone through its share of growing pains its 1st season in more than 4 decades without Krzyzewski.

The Blue Devils are 16-6 overall (7-4 ACC) heading into Saturday’s rivalry game. Like UNC, they’re unranked.

It’s also the 1st time since 1944-45 that neither of the opposing coaches in the game has as many as 50 career wins. Hubert Davis, who succeeded Hall of Famer Roy Williams, is in only his 2nd season with the Tar Heels.

It’s still Duke-UNC, though. And that’s good enough for ESPN, which is deploying its College GameDay team to broadcast on site from Krzyzewskiville on Saturday.

Or should that be Scheytown?

“Maybe someday,” said Cameron Crazie Shaiv Kittur, holding up 6 fingers to indicate the number of national titles it would take to surpass Krzyzewski’s total of 5. 

“But it won’t be anytime soon.”