Axios guide to Duke-UNC, the biggest college basketball game in the universe

Axios guide to Duke-UNC, the biggest college basketball game in the universe

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, left, and North Carolina coach Hubert Davis shake hands on Friday in New Orleans. Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

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Duke-UNC. Or UNC-Duke, depending on your perspective. Meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. In New Orleans. In the Final Four. In Coach K’s last season.

The vitals: 8:49pm tipoff, TBS.

Why it matters: Why does anything in sports matter? Maybe because arguing about a game, or getting anxious about a game, sure beats all the other reasons to argue and be anxious these days.

If you’re new around here, a little taste of what folks mean when they say college basketball’s more than a game.

It’s the voices that were on the the radio for so long, UNC’s Woody Durham and Duke’s Bob Harris, who, fun fact, attended Albemarle High at the same time in the 1950s. (I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Woody once, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing his voice during the game, even though he’s gone.)

  • It’s Axios Charlotte editor Katie Peralta Soloff, nine months pregnant, hoping the baby waits another day for her UNC grad husband Jesse.
  • It’s my neighbors Nick and Angela, one a Heel and one a Devil, already angling to get a verbal commitment from their two-year-old daughter.
  • It’s another young girl, years ago in west Charlotte, listening to the rivalry on the radio, long before she became my mother-in-law. Send up a prayer for the hardwood floors she’ll be pacing on Saturday.
  • And to me, a Maryland native with no deep-rooted allegiance, it’s my old and dying father, a few years ago, his brain stripped by strokes, seeing Coach K’s image flash across the television and remembering to say, “I can’t stand that man, but I respect him. I guess.”

The bottom line: To some, the game won’t matter at all. To others, it’s the only thing that matters.


Where to watch

In Chapel Hill this week, people lined up on Tuesday to get tickets on Wednesday for a seat at the popular Sup Dogs on Saturday.

  • We haven’t heard of stories like that here, but the point stands: Call ahead and arrive early.
  • ICYMI, Axios’ Maxwell Millington rounded up a dozen options, from partisan bars like Moo & Brew to more neutral environs like Sports One.

Full guide: 12 places to watch the Duke-UNC showdown

1501 south mint

1501 South Mint will be showing the game. Photo: Emma Way/Axios


Tips for the non-sports fans

Not into sports but want to hold your own at the party? Axios’ Ashley Mahoney has talking points.

By the numbers: Looking purely at seeding and records, Ashley says, Duke should win.

  • The Blue Devils’ record is 32-6, and they’re the No. 2 seed. North Carolina is 28-9 and a No. 8 seed.
  • Plus, UNC averages 78.1 ppg, while Duke averages 80.1.

Yes, but: UNC coach Hubert Davis has rallied his team in his first season following the retirement of Roy Williams last April. The Tar Heels beat Duke in March, tarnishing Coach K’s final home game.

  • But, but, but: Coach K is a titan of the game, and his 40-plus years at Duke could come with the sweetest cake-topper — revenge.

Fun facts: Duke’s Wendell Moore and UNC’s Leaky Black were teammates at Cox Mill High in Concord.

  • Hubert Davis’s dad, also named Hubert, played at Johnson C. Smith from 1965-1969.

One mind-blowing chart to go

Duke-UNC rivalry graphic

Data: Sports Reference; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Since Krzyzewski took the Duke job in 1980, the Blue Devils are 50-49 against UNC, Axios’ Kendall Baker and Jeff Tracy wrote Friday in Axios Sports.

  • Keep your face paint on, Crazies: Yes, we know about the two games in 1994 when Coach K was sidelined by back surgery, which means his record against UNC is 50-47.

Still, this is the 100th game during the Krzyzewski era, and Duke leads by 1. One!

Enjoy the game, and be nice to each other.

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"It's good. I promise." - Emma   Emma Way