Who has the best basketball program, Duke or Carolina?
With the 246th renewal of the world’s greatest rivalry on tap tonight, it’s time to ask that age-old question: if you dropped in from Mars, which shade of blue would you choose?
The macro is about as close as the micro. UNC leads the all-time series, 135 wins to 110. But almost all of that stems from the pre-ACC era when the Tar Heels were more dominant. In the 13,140 days of Dean Smith, who died three years ago, Carolina won more often. In the Roy Williams era, the Blue Devils have won 18 out of 30 games so far, including six of the last eight. But here are some other interesting comparisons.
In the last 14 years, the Tar Heels have won seven ACC regular-season championships outright and tied for an eighth. Duke has won the ACC only twice outright and tied for it a third time. If the Blue Devils don’t win the 2018 regular season, and they are currently four games behind league-leading Virginia, it will be a dozen years since last finishing alone in first place.
Williams said this week that his priority, as it was Smith’s, is always to win the regular season than a three- or four- or five-day ACC tournament, because it proves you were better over a longer period of time. Since Mike Krzyzewski has been at Duke, the emphasis seems to have been on cutting down nets.
Coach K’s teams have won six ACC tourneys over the last 14 years and lost twice in the final; Ol’ Roy’s teams have won three and lost the title game four times. But when it comes to the Big Dance, the NCAA tournament, the results are surprising.
Duke has reached three Final Fours in the last 14 years, winning twice. Williams’ Tar Heel teams have been to the last weekend of the season five times and won three national championships. And the overall NCAA tournament record is lopsided by an almost staggering margin.
In the last 14 NCAA tourneys, Duke is 31-12; UNC’s record in 13 is 42-10, having missed the 2010 Dance. The Blue Devils have been one-and-done three times — 2007 to VCU, 2012 to Lehigh and 2014 to Mercer. Under Williams, Carolina has never lost an opening game of the tournament. In fact, in 28 NCAA trips at Kansas and UNC, Roy has won at least one game each year.
So, you have arrived from Mars with a basketball under your arm, settled in the Triangle and must choose your blue. Light or royal?