The sequel is never as good as the original.

OK, so maybe The Godfather, Part 2 was better. But that’s the exception that proves the rule.

When it comes to hard acts to follow, it’s going to be impossible for North Carolina and Duke to top the 2-act drama they played out on the basketball court last spring.

First there was Mike Krzyzewski’s emotional farewell at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a party the Tar Heels crashed by beating his Blue Devils. 

Then a month later, on an even greater stage, they did it again. UNC sent the winningest coach in college basketball history into retirement with a victory at the Final Four in by far the most anticipated and hyped meeting in the history of their storied rivalry.

So now what do they do for an encore?

Saturday’s game at Cameron can’t help but be a comedown under any circumstances. But it’s even more so considering that both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have scuffled at times this season and are currently unranked.

And the star power that once graced the sideline is gone now that both Krzyzewski and UNC’s Hall of Famer Roy Williams have both called it a career. The matchup between their successors Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis will be the first since 1944-45 in which neither coach has as many as 50 career victories.

Even though ESPN’s College GameDay will be making its obligatory appearance, the buildup to Saturday has been considerably more subdued than usual.

And yet, it’s still the Battle of the Blues. As the Tar Heels’ Armando Bacot reminds us, even on those rare occasions when expectations are at their lowest, UNC-Duke almost always delivers.

“We always want to beat them,” the senior center said. “At the end of the day, it’s a rivalry.”

One of that rivalry’s most iconic moments, Jeff Capel’s halfcourt buzzer-beater to force a 2nd overtime in 1995, came during a season in which the Blue Devils went 13-18 (2-14 ACC) while Coach K was recovering from back surgery.

It’s not as if Saturday’s renewal is devoid of plot twists or storylines.

For Scheyer and the only 2 holdovers from Krzyzewski’s final team, Jeremy Roach and Jaylen Blakes, this is an opportunity to extract at least some small amount of payback for rewriting their beloved coach’s storybook ending.

“That Final Four loss is still sitting sick in my stomach, for sure,” said Roach, the Blue Devils’ 2nd-leading scorer at 12.2 points per game.

As much as that motivates the junior point guard, last season’s disappointment isn’t something Scheyer, Coach K’s former top assistant, has spent much time talking about with this team.

Not because he’s trying to avoid the subject or flush it from his memory.

There just aren’t many players on the roster who were personally affected by the experience, with 6 freshmen and 4 transfers playing their 1st season at Duke. Rookie forward Kyle Filipowski said he watched the national semifinal game on TV from his prep school, surrounded by a group of friends who were all rooting for UNC.

“Talking about last year, you’re looking around and who was with us?” Scheyer said with a chuckle. “It would be like me and Jeremy having a conversation, just the 2 of us.”

It would be more of a large group discussion over in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels return 4 starters and several key reserves from the team that beat the Blue Devil in Cameron and again in New Orleans, and fell just short against Kansas in the national championship game.

But they’re not dwelling on the events of last spring, either.

Sure they’re fired up about playing in the energy-charged atmosphere of Cameron as part of the best, most intense rivalry in the country.

Who wouldn’t be? 

It’s just that they’ve got more immediate issues on their mind heading into Saturday’s game.

Not the least of them is finding the groove that helped spark their Final Four run but has eluded them during their free fall from the top of the national preseason polls to their current 15-7 (7-4 ACC) record.

UNC comes into Saturday’s game on a downer,  having suffered a demoralizing 65-64 home defeat to Pittsburgh.

“We’ve just got to flush it,” Bacot said of the 2nd loss in as many games to the Panthers this season. “If we worry about (the Pitt) game, we won’t have a chance at all (against Duke).”

Cameron isn’t the most optimal place for a team to try and bounce back. Still, getting thrown into the Devils’ den might not be the worst thing that could happen to the Tar Heels at this point in their season.

They have, after all, won there before. Under the most extreme circumstances imaginable.

Besides, there’s nothing like a rivalry game on an opponent’s home floor to help a team regain its focus and ignite a spark of badly needed intensity.

Especially this rivalry.