Duke vs. North Carolina still the No. 1 rivalry
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
DURHAM, N.C. — Rivalries are endangered. Isn’t that one of the messages of realignment frenzy, as money shoves aside tradition and breaks up long conference marriages?
This is the wrong place to say that. And the wrong week. It is time again for Duke-North Carolina.
It is only 10½ miles from Mike Krzyzewki’s to Roy Williams’ door; far enough to be vastly different worlds, close enough to form the best rivalry that college basketball has to offer.
There have only been nine Final Fours in the past 31 years without one or the other. Only 16 meetings since 1949 without one or the other, or both, ranked in the Associated Press poll. Krzyzewski has coached 74 games against North Carolina. He has won 37 and lost 37.
That’s called a rivalry.
They will come from opposing directions Wednesday night to Cameron Indoor Stadium, figuratively and literally.
At one end of those 10½ miles, Duke is No. 1 and tries to polish its chances as a national championship favorite, even with Ryan Kelly, one of its most important players, still missing with a foot injury.
“Two weeks ago, we didn’t know if we were going to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday. “People say, `C’mon,’ but when Ryan goes down and we lost at Miami, the world can turn. Easy. But we’ve won five games (in a row since).”
At the other end, North Carolina is unranked and tries to smooth a pothole-filled season that includes 16 wins, but also poundings of 26, 24 and 18 points among seven losses.
“Right now, we haven’t had that toughness, and I haven’t found a way to get it to them and I take that blame,” Williams said.
At one end, Krzyzewski cares nothing about owning the No. 1 ranking; only about what being a continual target can do to a team.