Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where Does The Duke Vs North Carolina Rivalry Rank Among Others?

As the two teams walked towards half court at Cameron Indoor Arena, fanatic students and fans shriek and scream wildly as the tip off of the first game between Duke and North Carolina in 2011 kicked off. The noise is deafening and raucous, with those sitting in the bottom half of the stands bouncing up and down like a Jack-In-The-Box with royal blue paint smeared over their faces and body.

The “Cameron Crazies” (the nickname for Duke fans) were out in full effect that evening, just as they always are for a Duke vs North Carolina rivalry basketball game.

This particular match up would be the 230th time both foes faced each other, but it also became one of the most intriguing match ups ever. Harrison Barnes and his Tar Heel teammates would contain the rowdy crowd by jumping out to a fourteen point lead at the end of the first half. Duke guards Nolan Smith and Seth Curry would reinvigorate their fans with a plethora of jumpers, lay-ups, and big defensive stops.

In the end, the Blue Devils would rise and overcome their halftime deficit, completing the greatest comeback victory in over 50 years.

Such excitement and intensity is a theme within this rivalry. The battles between both teams have created some of college basketball’s most significant and historical moments. Whether its Michael Jordan’s final North Carolina home game that went to double overtime or Gerald Henderson’s elbow breaking Tyler Hansbrough’s nose, a game between these two prestigious basketball programs just appears to stand alone from all the other college basketball match ups.

So where does this rivalry stand in college basketball?

While other schools have their own personal battles with one another, this Duke vs UNC rivalry is the best one of them all. Hands down, there is no other match up in college basketball that comes close to what these teams produce on the court.

College basketball is what it is today thanks in part to these two programs and their rivalry. The biggest and most highlighted game each year is the first time they play one another. It’s comparable to the special Christmas Day showdowns ABC puts together for the NBA or the Thanksgiving Day games that the NFL puts on for the public. People wait eagerly for those two hours when the powdered-blue and white face off against the royal blue and white.

Along with the excitement, the Duke vs UNC match up is superior to all other college basketball because of the quality of players from both programs. UNC have had stars like Jordan, Vince Carter, James Worthy, Raymond Felton and Rasheed Wallace go up against Duke greats like Johnny Dawkins, Carlos Boozer, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick.

The product of a good rivalry is based upon the success of its players and how the programs sustain that talent over time. Both schools have done that for decades.

Since this is the best college basketball rivalry of all time, where does it sit amongst the other great sports rivalries?

It’s hard for a college rivalry to contend with the professional ones because pro sports have such a higher rate of talent and players that remain in the franchise for years. Duke vs UNC have no chance to contend with some of the most influential professional sports rivalries in America.

The New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox is the greatest rivalry of all time, as every aspect and move in baseball (both on and off the field) centers around these two franchises. Coming up the rear is the NBA’s best rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. Since both team’s revival as conference representatives in the last three NBA title games, this battle has regained the luster Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought to it in the 1980s.

After those two though, it gets a bit tricky to compare the greatest college basketball rivalry with others.

The San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers is the west coast version of the Yankees/Red Sox match ups and is the second best rivalry in baseball. Although the Giants won the World Series this year, both teams have been inconsistent in remaining an NL West powerhouse and haven’t played many meaningful, heated games in recent years.

Michigan and Ohio State is the most well known rivalry in college football and is equivalent to what Duke and UNC are for their sport. The only issue is that Michigan has been in complete disarray for years, with a 2-6 Bowl game record and two losing seasons since 2002.

At the moment, the Duke vs UNC rivalry is the third hottest rivalry in comparison to all the others. The first game of the 2010-11 season between both showcased the passion between one another when they face one another for tip off at half court.

Expect a loud eruption from a swarming sea of sky-blue fans when Duke heads to the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for the final game of the regular season.

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