Adam Gold

College basketball's only national rivalry

Posted February 13, 2013

DeLoss Dodds, the University of Texas director of athletics, recently undressed the sport of college basketball using the phrase "in shambles" to describe its current state. Dodds looked at stagnant (at best) television ratings, the perceived talent drain to the professional game and sagging attendance in general, and he aimed his barbs straight at the heart of college ball. Duke at UNC Inside the Rivalry: Duke vs. UNC Basketball

There are valid points to be made about the lack of upperclassmen in the sport. Five of the first 10 players selected in the most recent NBA draft were college freshmen. In all, 18 of the 30 selections last June had completed just one or two years of college, a record. In all, over the last five years, the college game has lost 33 of its best freshman players to the NBA, and if you don't think the quality of play has suffered at the top of the sport you haven't been paying attention.

Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium, talk of the game in shambles, the decline in talent and sagging TV ratings and game attendance will garner nary a mention because the highlight of college basketball's regular season is here. Throw out all of those other classic match ups. Toss aside Michigan-Indiana, Louisville-Kentucky or Georgetown-Syracuse, great, traditional rivalries all. Duke versus North Carolina is the only national rivalry in college basketball.

The game airs at 9 p.m. on WRAL-TV and 620AM The Buzz. Stay tuned for postgame celebrations, coaches' press conferences and fan celebrations.

Of the five top-rated college basketball games since 1990 on ESPN, four of them are Duke-North Carolina match ups. When ESPN launched ESPN2, they did so by slotting this match up for the sister network, hoping to entice cable providers to make the new channel more available to basic subscribers. That Jeff Capel and Jerry Stackhouse provided two of the most memorable highlights in rivalry lore only adds to the mystique. Stackhouse authored the greatest dunk in series history, posterizing both Erik Meek and Cherokee Parks during a reverse, tomahawk, fast-break jam that has been shown on TV more than Duke games themselves. Capel's career highlight, for what it's worth, was in the same game, a running, 30-footer as the horn sounded that forced a second overtime. ncsuduke39 Rivalry picks: Duke hosts North Carolina

That the Blue Devils lost that game matters only to the participants. So too, may be the fact that those teams could not have been more different. Duke would win only two Atlantic Coast Conference games that season, the only sub-.500 conference mark for the Blue Devils in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, that North Carolina squad boasted two of the top four players selected in June's NBA draft and was headed for the Final Four. Still, Carolina's double-overtime win provided an indelible memory for anyone lucky enough to experience these games over decades of match ups.

No one needs to hold a benefit for college basketball. It isn't the NBA or the NFL or Major League Baseball, or even college football, which, due to the evil Bowl Championship Series, has become a national phenomenon.

Television ratings are lower because so many more games are available every night. Wednesday alone, there are 15 college basketball games available on my cable system. Fifteen!

More so than the professional behemoths and college football, college hoops is a regional game. The only exception to that rule is showcased when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils meet. And while it doesn't always produce the best game, it is always captivating and steeped with historical timestamps and everlasting memories.

Because it's more than just a game when two of the most decorated, most storied programs in the history of the sport, two programs separated by a mere eight miles of asphalt yet joined by decades of similarities, get together for the first time each year. It's an event: The unofficial start of bubble season, college basketball's version of a pennant race.

And best of all, it's ours. The rest of the nation is just lucky we're nice enough here in the south to share it with them. 

61 Comments

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  • VT1994Hokie Feb 14, 2013

    View quoted thread


    I agree. Loads of rivalries all across the Country. Dean Smith began the run way back against Duke. Coach K has done the job to bring Duke to one of the top teams in America. These two schools recruit essentially the same players, and they have always banged heads. Look at the Nationl Championships between these two schools.

  • braves309 Feb 14, 2013

    View quoted thread


    Listen you, it takes time for a team that has sucked for 20 + years to get back to once they were the best in the ACC. But you don't know college basketball, your just some wal mart fan. But just so you know I know my basketball quite well. And I see this team only going to improve. You don't think improving from the last 20 years to now? Your a joke. It takes time for a team like us to improve, but you will see. Next year or two we win the national championship, TAKE IT TO THE BANK!!

  • Toddler10-21 Feb 14, 2013

    Glad its over. Didnt get my wish both teams didnt lose. Still love the shot by Rivers last year.

  • rduguyhere Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    What exactly is "on the rise"? State is tied with UNC for 4th place in the ACC two thirds through the season. This is Moo U's best team in 30 years and UNC's worst team in 10 and 2nd worst in 30 years. Oh well, if that means you are on the rise, that's cool.

  • braves309 Feb 13, 2013

    I just want to say as a pack fan, we are on the rise and will continue to be. We are definitely better than the days under Sendek and Lowe. So just wait and I bet my life that in a year or two State will have their third national Championship. Maybe we get one this year who knows. But mark it down in the next year or two State will be national Champions.

  • ugottabkiddinme Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    If it wasnt for Dean, Coach K would not even be a known coach....Dean owned him head to head and the players that couldn't play for Dean and the heels wanted to play against him ....enter K..in other words he got Deans sloppy seconds..lol but it worked out well for him

  • rfred16 Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    ESPN, The Sporting News, and Sports Illustrated all disagree..Polls disagree, so I would just love to find out where you get your info from??

  • FatherofFour Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    Actually, it was 1992, and the next night we got to see Jordan and the Bulls play a NBA game. It was considered his homecoming game and was also a highlight of our trip. For a good ole' country boy like myself, it was the trip of a lifetime.

  • FatherofFour Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    I will agree with that. I actually grew up a UNC fan until I attended NC State. It did not take me long until my loyalty changed. When I was in high school though, my team attended a seminar at UNC where we got to see the team practice and afterwards, got to meet all of the players (1993 with King Rice, Eric Montrose, Rick Fox, etc.). I waited in line to get Dean's autograph. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him. I was just going to be happy to be in the same frame, so I stood next to him and handed a friend my camera. To my surprise, he said "Sure, but let's go over here". He proceded to lead me to the fan seats on the sideline where he sat down, told me to sit beside him, and put his arm around my shoulder for the photo. I was in awe, and it is something that I will never forget. I have absolute respect for that man for doing such a thing for a young punk like myself when 100's of kids were waiting in line. I also have the ultimate respect for him as a person and as a coach. I was fortunate enough to see it first-hand, up-close and personal. Just thought you Heels fans might enjoy that story.

  • StunGunn Feb 13, 2013

    View quoted thread


    And don't forget the man that coached MJ:) I think Coach Dean Smith plays a part in this storied rivalry.

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