The 237th installment of what is widely believed to be the greatest rivalry in college sports promises to be another classic encounter between two of the most iconic programs in college basketball.
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Although a week and a day later than originally scheduled due to the winter storm, this game is shaping up to be memorable.
Head Coach Roy Williams says Carolina didn’t let the postponement affect them, picking up two key ACC wins since then.
“We’ve played two more games. That part has helped our confidence, there’s no question. But I thought we were in a good frame of mind at that point too. So I’ve tried to blow that off and say hey, we’re going to play next week instead of now,” Coach Williams says.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige says the team’s ability to escape with a win against FloridaState without the services of James Michael McAdoo was a huge confidence booster for the Tar Heels.
“To have him play the way he did against FloridaState and have us still be able to bounce back and win, that’s big for us. It gave the rest of the guys a confidence boost,” Paige says.
Many Tar Heel and Blue Devil players grew up playing basketball with each other. Paige says that familiarity factor only adds fuel to the fire of the rivalry.
“We all know each other from the AAU circuit. We play so many games on the circuit, at camps and the skills academy. That kind of helps the rivalry. You know the guys you’re playing against. You’ve already been playing against them. It makes it more interesting and makes it more personal. It brings up the intensity level of the games, too,” Paige says.
Coach Williams says although he tries to treat the Duke game like all the others, the fact remains that this one is just “different”.
“This is different. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s different. We’re ten miles away. Some times it seems like hundreds of miles away with snow and things like that. Two programs have been very successful for a long time. I think it’s always going to be a little different,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series 132-104, but the Blue Devils claimed the last meeting between the two schools 69-53 in March of 2013.
Carolina is an even 39-39 against Duke since Mike Krzyzewski became the Duke Head coach. Thursday night’s game will tip the scales one way or another.