In the words of SlamOnline writer Chris Deaton, the rivalry between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels is not only a “high-stakes battle for posturing and pride”, but the best rivalry in all of college basketball:
2003-2006 saw a string of games with scores of 82-79, 63-75, 81-83, 65-70, 70-71, 75-73, 83-87 and 83-76. 12 of this decade’s 23 meetings have been waged with both in the top-15. During that span, each has been to multiple Final Fours (UNC 4, Devils 2) and won a national championship (2005 and 2009 for the Heels, 2001 for Duke).
This is a series defined by matchups: Roy versus K, Williams versus May, elbow versus face—and the list indubitably goes on. Absurd bets? Got ‘em for the young, got ‘em for the old. Juicy subplots? Only if you’re into Speedos.
College basketball’s definitive rivalry certainly warrants exhaustive description. But it doesn’t need it. The writing is in the box scores, the papers, the blogs, the bracket seeding, the hype and everything. It’s obvious. It’s simple. The decade’s best was Carolina-Duke.
Sports Illustrated came to a similar conclusion in its listing of sports’ best rivalries.