Tonight is the first of at least two meetings between Duke and UNC’s men’s basketball teams this year. I predicted Duke had a 60% chance to win at least one of these games, given the consensus that Carolina fields a better team this year. I think that’s still a bit of an underestimate, as that equates to Carolina having a 63% chance to win each game, which seems a bit high, given how competitive these games usually are. Moreover, against common opponents this year, Duke is 7-3 to UNC’s 8-2. Carolina certainly has the advantage at home tonight (and with only 6 Duke players playing more than 5 minutes), though it’s unlikely to be a blowout.
Let’s talk about the rivalry. Duke and Carolina have played 240 men’s basketball games against each other, with UNC currently winning the series 133-107. But I contend this fact is not relevant because more distant sports results tend to fade from memory and importance over time. It’s the most recent outcomes that everyone talks about…
And last year, guess who not only won a national championship, but who also swept their rivals? The Blue Devils. Of course, dominance in the last year can’t define an entire rivalry, so let’s look at the last couple years. Since 2014, who has done better? Duke is up 3-1. But what if what really matters is the last 3, 4, or 5 years? Duke 5-1, 6-2, 8-3. In fact, we can keep this trend going:
|last <Y> years||last <x> games||Dating Back To||Duke record|
Duke has a winning record against Carolina over the last X years, where X is any number of years you’d care about.
Since UNC’s Class of 2019 was born, UNC is about 14-28 against Duke. Since their seniors were born, UNC is 21-29 against Duke. Their lives have been defined by an era of Blue Devil Dominance (for the first few years of current seniors’ lives, UNC did have a winning record against Duke, which means, as far as this rivalry in concerned, their glory days were during preschool, something they share with many other Tar Heels).
You might hear a stat on ESPN tonight that “dating back to 1977, this rivalry is tied!” That’s because you literally have to go back to 1977 to get a tie in the rivalry, Duke has been so dominant recently. But hey, if you count all the games going back to the Ford administration, the Tar Heels are right there with them!
So when Carolina fans brag about how their team is better for having gone undefeated in 1957, an era where lasers and zip codes hadn’t yet been invented, or having won 6 national titles to Duke’s 5 since they count that ultra-competitive 1924 season which was only retroactively declared a championship 20 years later, let them have this. They’ve been getting crushed by Duke for the last 38 years, it’s only fair.