UNC v Duke, The Most Important Game in Each School’s History

A Review of Coach K’s Legacy and of the Rich Rivalry


With no debate needed, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry is the greatest college basketball rivalry, and maybe the greatest college rivalry in history. Only seven miles apart, the two North Carolina “blue bloods” met for the first time in NCAA history during March Madness. Thus, the stakes were higher than they had ever been before in the rivalry, as the winner would advance to the National Championship to face Kansas. Duke and UNC play each other twice a season and are always the biggest nationally televised and sought-after games to watch every year. So a third game between the two powerhouse schools would mean that all eyes would be on them this past Saturday. 

“Cameron Crazies” – Hardcore Duke fans, Lilly Claypoole, and her dad.

Not only would a loss for Duke mean the end of their amazing season, but also the last game of College Hall of Fame coach, Mike Krzyzewski, ending his 42-year career at Duke. Arguably the greatest college coach of all time, Coach K’s career started in the early 80s, and his domination would last over 4 decades, bringing 5 national championships to Durham, NC. In 2011, Coach K would earn the title of the winningest coach in college basketball history, with a win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. And in 2015, he would be the first coach to reach 1000 career wins. But before Duke, and all the national championships, Coach K would start his career as an assistant for the great Bobby Knight on the Indiana University coaching staff. There, after just one season, he would return to his alma mater, Army, to coach 5 seasons, having a record of 73-59. Then, on March 18, 1980, Coach K was named head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, starting his career of college basketball dominance. Coach K has racked up 15 ACC championships, 12 Final Fours, and over 35 NCAA tournament births. He has also been named the head coach of the US Men’s Olympic basketball team for the 2008 Beijing Games, 2012, London Games, and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Duke Coach, Mike Krzyzewski 

The last ever game at Cameron Indoor Stadium to witness Coach K was March 5, right before the NCAA tournament began. This game saw an unranked UNC team go into one of the most hostile stadiums in college and dominate No. 4 ranked Duke on their own court. This is just weeks after Duke dominated UNC on their home turf too. So now, after a split series between the two teams, the winner of this incredible Final Four matchup would not only win the bragging rights of the series but prove who owns the rights to the state of North Carolina for college basketball. Not many people outside of Tarheel fans expected this UNC team to dominate in the tournament and eventually make it to the Final Four. And going into this matchup between these two rival teams, it was only fair to assume that Duke wouldn’t fall twice in a row to UNC, especially on a stage like this. However, UNC had gotten so far, that this game wasn’t going to be easy for either team. 

UNC Star Point Guard, Caleb Love

This past Saturday, the anticipated matchup would be played at the Superdome in New Orleans, housing over 70,000 spectators, watching probably the greatest game in this rich rivalry’s history. Going into halftime, the Blue Devils were up 3 points, hoping to hold on for another 20 minutes and punch their ticket to play Kansas on Monday. However, UNC’s star player, Armando Bacot, snubbed for ACC player of the year, would rise to the occasion, just as he has this whole tournament. The Heels would go on an impressive 13-0 run, giving themselves some leeway, only for Duke to put the game right back in their hands. Then, with 25 seconds left, UNC’s star guard, Caleb Love, would “ice” the game with a 3, putting the nail in the coffin for Duke’s championship hopes and ending the 42-year career of a coaching legend. The final score would end up being 81-77 in favor of the Heels. Caleb Love would finish with an impressive 28 points, being the X factor for his team. Other notable players include Duke phenom, Paolo Bancherno, with 20 points and ten boards, and Brady Manek with 14 points for UNC. 

This ultimate classic, between such a bitter and rich rivalry, lived up to the hype and forced millions of Americans across the country to either be a Duke or North Carolina fan for the night. With over 18 lead changes and 12 ties, there was no lack of action throughout the whole game, as both teams kept it close up until the final buzzer. As for Coach K, it seemed almost too good to be true to win it all in the last ever season of his career. But, there is no arguing his impact on the game, the last 42 years, will never die.