Blog Entry

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Posted on: February 13, 2009 3:59 pm

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I understand that the Duke-North Carolina rivalry gets press, and that is one of the reasons it is hyped. But what about another notable rivalry in Kansas-Missouri? That rivalry predates the Civil War and actually is historically significant. Why doesn't the press hype it a little more?
-- Matt

The reality is this: Duke-UNC is the most-hyped rivalry in college basketball because it's the best -- and only nationally relevant -- rivalry in college basketball. It's not some grand conspiracy, Matt. It's treated a certain way because it's the only rivalry that matters to fan bases from coast to coast. Meanwhile, Kansas-Missouri -- as great as it might be -- is a regional rivalry, just like Marquette-Wisconsin, Kentucky-Louisville, Xavier-Cincinnati, whatever. Those matter in those regions every year, and nationally some years depending on the quality of the teams. But Duke-UNC matters every year. So if the question is why does that rivalry always get national attention, the answer is because it's the only rivalry worthy of always getting national attention.

It's like I've said before, the reason people say the Beatles are the best band ever is because they are the best ever. Likewise, the reason people say Duke-North Carolina is the best rivalry in college basketball is because it is the best rivalry in college basketball, and I hope that clears this up for you.


Since: Aug 1, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 12:05 am

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Over the last 30 tournaments and this year (the time since seeding began) UNC and Duke are tied for first with 3 National Championships, First and second in number of National Finals, 7 & 4;  Final Fours, 10 & 9 (no other school has more than 6); Regional Finals, 15 & 12 (UK also has 12); Sweet 16s, 20 & 18 and tourney wins 73 & 71 (UK and KU are the only other schools with 50).  I am not sure which of those you think is media hype, but they are actually fact.  I am not a fan of either school, my team is Michigan State and while we have been one of the ten most successful teams in that era, we are not close to that level of success. Our rival Mich also has an NC and some success in that time, both schools have not been nationally relevant in the same year since 1986.  UK/UL has also had both schools win NCS and even two each, with both schools in the top ten in each measure of tourney success that I named, but they are not close to the success of UNC/Duke in the last ten years and were no better in the preceeding 20.  As For IU/UK, IU has played in the second weekend of the NCAAs only once in the last 15 years.  Both UNC and Duke are in the conference title race and national title hunt more often than not and that isn't because of the media, that is determined by outcome of games played and has nothing to do with the media.

Since: Sep 16, 2008
Posted on: February 15, 2009 6:37 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Since 2000, NCAA champions:


3 ACC, 2 SEC (both Florida), 2 Big East, 1 Big-10, 1 Big-12

Since: Dec 8, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2009 11:43 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Gary is right on about this rivalry.  Both teams are always in the top ten and a national champion contender.  One rivalry that is on the rise is the Pitt UCONN rivalry.  Over the past 10 years both programs have been consistently in the top ten and fighting each other for the Big East championship.  The only thing holding this rivalry back is the lack of NCAA tournament sucess from Pitt.  This might be the year that this rivalry takes center stage, with both teams having an excellent chance in making the final four. 

Since: Aug 19, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2009 12:40 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

I've decided I don't really care if the press hypes only North Carolina/Duke. Missouri and Kansas fans know about the venom and hate of the Border War. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State know about the hatred of the Bedlam Series. Same goes for every other rivalry in college basketball. Rivalries are all about what it means to the fans of the respective schools, not about what the national media has to say about your game.

So ESPN can keep showing us endless promos for Duke/UNC and CBSSportsline can keep creating countdowns to Duke/UNC games three months in advance. I still watched the game last Wednesday, but because it was a top 5 match-up, not because of the rivalry.

I do wish sometimes that Duke and North Carolina fans would understand that the rest of the country doesn't give a crap about them. There is more to the world than a small corner on the East Coast.

Since: Oct 14, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2009 10:12 am

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Gary, you got the right answer, but I don't agree with the explanation.  This is my opinion, and just that.  But think of two facts.  1.  8 miles.  Need I say more?  and fact B.  your talking about 2 teams that are in the top four in the history of college basketball, considering total wins.  If i'm not mistaken, combined, these schools have nearly 3800 wins.  that blows any other rivalry out of the water.  These teams bring it, year in and year out. 

and for the record....I hate both DUKE and UNC.  GO KENTUCKY!

Since: Jul 14, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2009 7:51 am

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Respectfully, Gary, you may have missed Matt's point. "Greatness" is about perception, and perception is distorted by hype. The more media coverage the greatness gets, the more disconnected from reality the perception gets. There is a circular logic to saying something's hyped as great because it's nationally relevant and it's nationally relevant because the hype is successful. Both teams are perceived to always be top 10. In terms of NCAA tournament performance, that scenario is rarer than you think. Outside of tobacco road, it's another regional rivalry. Since neither Duke nor UNC will a) lose perceived greatness or b) advance any further in the tournament as a result of any particular game, it's not as HUGE to the rest of us.

Logically, this isn't just another game. But the fact is, any particular result is not that important, nationally or otherwise. If you missed the Epic UNC-Duke Game of the Century last week, you're in luck- they're playing another one in a couple of weeks. By definition, it isn't the game of the century if it happens 300 times per century. It's the game of the fortnight, at best. Kentucky fans can recite every score from every UK-U of L game going back 26 years (the more academic ones can go back to 1915). Every single game is important. A loss to the Cardinals means a full year of misery to the losing team's fans plus years of reminders of the game's place in history. The sheer frequency of the Duke-UNC game dilutes the sense of history and importance- one game can't mean as much when there are two more coming every year.

Your point that the rivalry has more national importance because of ranking is legitimate, but consider that their ranking is generated largely from historic success and beating each other (which they get lots of chances to do). (Aside: Remember when Duke beat Georgetown in Cameron this year- blogs lit up pointing to that as evidence of ACC domination over the Big East, as verification of Duke's national prominence. Then seven Big East teams stepped up to beat those same Hoyas, everybody re-thought their perceptions of Georgetown, and nobody re-examined Duke.)

Some of this comes from a distorted historical perception of the programs and the ACC in general. From the late 80s through the mid 90s, when the product of college basketball was finding its marketing groove, the ACC had teams overachieving in the NCAA tournament every year. They won championships in '91-'93 and built legends that CBS and ESPN sold very effectively and continue to sell. But from 1997 through last year, ACC teams have underperformed their seeding by a net 21 rounds, and Duke was by far the largest underachiever in the bunch. There are two possible explanations for that. One is that the ACC is a bunch of choke artists (do you buy that? with coach K's experience on the bench?). The other is that their perceived ability exceeds their actual ability. If that's the case, then maybe the Game of the Century Part 300 is part of that overhype, part of what drives the ACC to seeds higher than they're able to back up when it counts.

Historically, the ACC gets more hype, more #1 and #2 seeds, more cakewalk quasi-home game free passes to the sweet 16, and delivers fewer championships. If these two teams are the most deserving of hype, why is that?


Since: Oct 29, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2009 6:16 am

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

First of all, Gary did NOT compare it to any professional sports. Of which the Superbowl does not usually have true rivals. (BTW - you want something that's hyped by the media – the Superbowl has that covered). 

Gary also did not say that every sports fan thinks that it's the best. Or that you have to. Only that it IS the best. In every poll thrown on the WORLD-WIDE WEB, you'll see the UNC/Dook rivalry at the top. That is a matter of the popular vote, not just Gary's opinion. 

The game nearly always (longer than there has been an in-season ranking system) has national implications, as far as ranking or seeding, so yes, it's nationally relevant. 

Thanks for sharing your opinion. Although it's in the minority.

Since: Dec 22, 2006
Posted on: February 13, 2009 10:25 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Got to agree with Gary on this one as well. The reason it is the best and IS nationally relevant is because the two programs always have good teams.  A matchup between two top 10 team is nationally relevant from a college basketball perspective. Other rivalry games can match the intensity and enthusiasm from the the fans, but from the stand point of what a Duke vs. Carolina matchup typically means in the ACC and national standings it is much more important, which to me means a better rivalry.

I must admit though that the Kansas vs. Mizzou game is one of my favorite that I make sure to catch every year.  The fans are very passionate and regardless of the talent on either squad it seems like it's almost always a close entertaining game.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: February 13, 2009 9:47 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

Playing twice a year and sometimes 3 times a year adds to the rivalry. I makes it matter because the game is always for first in the ACC or the ACC Tourney Title.

Since: Jan 9, 2009
Posted on: February 13, 2009 8:05 pm

Dear Gary (on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry)

You are on target Gary and the other major reason for why the rivalry is such a great one is the proximty of the schools. The other rivalies are good but not at the same level as Duke - North Carolina. There are many other rivalries where theschool are an hour or two apart - it's just not the same.

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