There are rivalries in sports that simply rise above the rest.
Ohio State and Michigan have been squaring in football since the late 1800s, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have played 2,260 times, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have combined for 34 titles.
But when it comes to the college hardwood, North Carolina and Duke take the cake.
The two schools, separated by just 10 miles, have been battling since 1920 as bluebloods of the sport.
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The latest version of the rivalry will tip off on Saturday, February 3rd in Chapel Hill, NC, with both teams ranked in the top-10 and ESPN’s “College Gameday” in town.
It’s the first of two regular-season matchups between the two schools, with both teams wrapping up their regular season at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 9th.
For decades, the rivalry was highlighted by two familiar faces – Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.
From 2003 to 2021, Williams and Krzyzewski prowled the sidelines of Tobacco Road, with the two coaches combining for five national championships and nine Final Four appearances.
Williams retired in 2021 and Krzyzewski called it quits after losing to North Carolina in the 2022 Final Four in New Orleans.
The two new faces of the rivalry – Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis – are paving their own paths, with both coaches competing as players in the rivalry.
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Davis has had an up-and-down first three years as head coach of the Tar Heels, leading North Carolina to a national championship game appearance in year one and missing out on the NCAA Tournament completely in year two.
The Tar Heels sit at 17-4 and 9-1 in the ACC but are coming off their first conference loss on Tuesday against Georgia Tech.
“I think the thing you see with them this year; they have great togetherness,” Scheyer said Thursday when asked what North Carolina is doing differently from last season. “They really have great role definition for how they play. And you can tell they have great confidence. I think that’s the biggest thing that I see with them. They’ve been in different moments, whether they’re down or it’s a tight game, they believe they’re supposed to win.
The Tar Heels are a veteran group, led by two seniors in Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis.
“You have two guys in Bacot and Davis, who have been through a lot of wars,” Scheyer said. “They’ve been through a lot of wars together. And then you add in great experience. They’re one of the oldest teams in the country. [Cormac] Ryan and [Harrison] Ingram and [Jae’Lyn} Withers and the guys they’ve added, they have collectively played hundreds of games. I think that experience has really helped them.”
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For Scheyer and the Blue Devils, the second season since Krzyzewski’s retirement is going as well as one could hope.
Duke is 16-4 and 7-2 in the ACC, winners of 11 of the past 12 games.
“I have tremendous respect for Jon. I was a huge fan of his as a player when I worked for ESPN,” Davis said Thursday of Scheyer. “And he’s continued that as a head coach. His ability to coach but connect with the players, and pull out the best out of them on the court, in the classroom [and] in the community … What he’s done in his first two years is absolutely fantastic.
Duke is led by sophomore Kyle Filipowski and senior Jeremy Roach, with Filipowski averaging 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
“Just his ability on the offensive end as a 5 is just very difficult because he can handle the basketball,” North Carolina’s head coach said of Filipowski on Thursday. “He’s almost … he’s a point guard. His ability to be able to pass, he can get a rebound [and] advance the ball up the floor and make plays. Anybody with that type of size, he’s aggressive, he can draw fouls, he can shoot from three, he can post up, he can put the ball on the floor.
“So, it’s hard to get the ball out of his hands. [It’s] hard to double him. Because he can catch the ball and attack in so many different areas.”
Duke and North Carolina tip off for the 261st time on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.